3 Crucial Steps to Resolving Conflict at Work


conflict at work

Work can be the worst place to deal with conflict of any kind. Especially conflict with a colleague. It is important to maintain a professional working relationship with others, especially if you work as part of a team.

Conflicts at work can be disruptive, impact your credibility, and self-esteem. Whether you’re new to the organization or someone with seniority, conflicts arise for all sorts of reasons. You might disagree with decisions of upper management, you and another co-worker disagree over the best way to approach a project, or behaviors that impede workflow.

Whatever the conflict is, it’s important to resolve the issue as soon as possible and get things moving forward again. This ensures things do not stay unresolved with the potential of getting worse.


Use these steps to help resolve work conflicts:


  1. Active listening. One of the main keys to conflict resolution of any kine, is the principle of active listening. While you may nod in agreement as if you’ve heard it all before, take time to think about what the phrase “active listening” really means.
    • Active listening is a skill that requires the listener to fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said. It also requires time, patience and practice.
    • Active listening involves not just hearing the words, but taking a few seconds to understand what they are saying with an open mind. A good way to ensure that you’ve heard what someone else is saying is by repeating it back to them. An example, “To clarify, you said…” or even, “Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought I heard you say…” and then continue to rephrase what they said.
  2. Take a Time Out. When emotions start to flare during the discussion, this may not be the best time to address the conflict head-on. Instead, ask for a time out and come back another time when cooler heads prevail. This allows for a calmer discussion of the conflict and better success of coming to a resolution.
    • It’s also important to be respectful of their feelings. Anytime you address a challenge or disagreement you have with another person, asking for a time out helps with being calmer and able to hear what the other person is saying and feeling when you come back together.
  3. Pick your battles. Before you engage in conflict resolution with a co-worker or boss, consider how important the issue is. Some conflicts aren’t worth your time and effort to resolve. Others, however, are important to address because they impact your reputation, or your ability to get your work done.
    • A good rule of thumb when deciding whether or not to resolve conflict involves regret. Ask yourself: “Will I regret this later if I do nothing about the situation?” Alternatively, ask “Will this issue matter one month or one year from now?”
    • If the answer is “no” to either of those questions, then you probably have an issue that you can walk away from and let go.


When addressing disagreements at work, your communication with the other person is critical. Body language, tone of voice, the words you use, and attitude all factor into success or not. It is very important to remember, it isn’t about who’s right and who’s wrong, it is about coming to a resolution that works for both parties.


Even if you’re not able to come to a resolution, you can know that you’ve at least tried to resolve the conflict in a thoughtful and appropriate manner. Conflict resolution is really about addressing the issue in a timely, thoughtful way, so that both parties can put the issue behind them and continue to work together.


If you would like help developing your skills in conflict resolution, please reach out.