Techniques and Strategies to Manage Conflict in the Workplace

How do you manage conflict in the workplace?  Now, understand, I’m not talking about physical altercations, although I have had to manage a few of those at one time or another.  These are the normal day to day conflicts that can lead to stress and anxiety when they arise.

The dictionary defines conflict as varying from a sharp disagreement to opposing ideas and interests.

There can be a benefit to some disagreement.  If managed properly, it’s a great way to bring diverse thought and perspective together to form new solutions and results.  Developing strong communication skills is one of the secrets to successfully managing conflict.

Conflict usually takes the form of personality clashes and a lack of consensus.  People come from different backgrounds and have different experiences.  These influence how they work together as a team.  A lot of time and energy can be saved by trying to proactively address some strategies to bring coherence and teamwork into the organization.   Competition is another common reason for conflict.  This too can be successfully managed.  Let’s look at how.

What are some of the ways for you to manage conflict in the workplace??

What are some of the ways for you to manage conflict in the workplace?

  1. Assess the individuals who you have the most conflict with. What is causing the points of conflict?  Different perspectives?  Competition?  Both?  Assess the root causes that you think are conflicts for you.
  2. Put together a vision for how you want to work with this person in the future. Other than avoidance which might not always work effectively, especially if you need to collaborate with this person, what are some ideal options for working together?  What would you need to say, think, or do differently?
  3. Analyze how you feel about competition. Some people welcome it while others shy far away from it…just like conflict.  As I coach clients, we discuss who their competitors are in the organization and what they need to specifically address to make teamwork happen. It’s almost as though you have to compartmentalize the competition part from the need to work together.  It’s tricky, but it can be done.
  4. Understand your communication style and how it may, inadvertently, have led to conflict situations. Are you overly sensitive?  Or too direct?  Is some of your language perceived in the wrong way?  I had an unconscious habit of my own voice going higher (not louder) when I was in a conflict situation.  I received that feedback and it helped me to manage my voice which could have been perceived as escalating, when that was not what I was trying to do.
  5. Consider 360-degree evaluations for the team. This is a great way to get all of the conflict points out in the open.  The only person you can ever change is yourself.  This is important to understand.  360-degree evaluations are feedback for you.
  6. Think about how open you are to feedback. Feedback is important to ensuring your communication style is working as intended.  If you don’t have 360-degree evaluations, ask/solicit feedback on your conflict management style.
  7. Avoid verbal or physical confrontations in public. I coached a client Director after a very heated argument with a peer about promotions for individuals in their division.  My client felt attacked and attacked back.  The only problem was that she and her peer were not alone.  Other peers, some subordinates, and her vice president witnessed the melee.  This did not reflect well on my client or her peer. Keep potentially fiery discussions private, and in a situation like this, the two peers should have met beforehand to discuss promotions. Because they both avoided this, it led to a more heated argument, without positive results for either of them. Get ahead of these potential situations.
  8. Stop making assumptions about other team members. There was a peer who I assumed was a “fair haired” aggressive promotion seeker.  It turned out, as I got to know him, that he was an advocate for me, especially with other senior leaders.  You just never know until you get to talk to others which is why you need to…
  9. Build relationships! As I mentioned. relationship building is a big part of your job, but it’s probably something you spend the least amount of time on.  Get to know your co-workers, and especially those who you feel provoke conflict.
  10. Pick your battles! Ever encountered someone who oversaw the supply closet and had to approve your paperclips?  These are minor conflicts that you can avoid.  Sometimes it’s better to just let it go.
  11. Become a good listener. Take the time to use active listening in your interactions.  This is a great skill to perfect.
  12. Seek to understand. Make it a priority to network and develop strong relationships as a hedge against conflicts.   There are agendas that we won’t learn about until we take the time to get to know and understand.

Focus on good communication skills to avoid workplace conflict and build high trust with others. Remember this is not a personality contest…it’s about working together toward common goals of the organization.  Build trust based on that common goal. Understand your triggers to conflict and work to have control over these.


Stop to assess conflicts with your co-workers.  Use some of these techniques to build stronger relationships and communication styles with these individuals.

Lupe Wood