Life & Work Skills

How to Defuse Conflicts at Work



No matter how well you get along with your co-workers, it is only a matter of time until you face a conflict at work. It is pretty much unavoidable when you spend eight hours a day working with the same people, sometimes for years. Whether it’s butting heads over the direction to take a project, a miscommunication, or feeling betrayed, a time will come when you have to defuse a conflict at work. But by taking steps to defuse the conflict you can stop the situation from escalating — before you know it, you may just be at happy hour with your office-mates like nothing ever happened.



If you feel your blood start to boil in a meeting or when a co-worker misses a deadline, pause before you react. Remember, many conflicts may be avoided simply by holding your tongue. If a co-worker upsets you, take some time to cool down and reflect on the situation. This way you will be able to broach a conversation about the issue without saying something you may regret later.



Everyone needs a good venting session once in awhile, but try to avoid talking about work conflicts with co-workers. Eventually, word will get back to the person you talked about, which will only make the situation worse. It is better to speak directly with the person you’ve had conflict with instead of co-workers who might blab about it. On the flip side, try to avoid listening to water cooler gossip about yourself. Things get lost in translation so don’t assume everything you hear is true.



While it is best to keep the conflict private, if it starts to escalate it might be best to involve your manager. An outside perspective might help you understand the root of the conflict or help validate your feelings. Either way, consulting someone not directly involved — just make sure you trust this person to remain professional — will hopefully help you gain the perspective you need to solve your conflict.



Your manager can also assist in mediation if necessary. First, see if your manager is willing to meet with you and the co-worker you are struggling with. Your manager can help open a dialogue about the conflict (which most people would generally avoid). They can also help keep the conversation calm and professional so that it’s a productive experience for everyone.



Like anything in life, you probably won’t always get your way at work. This can be difficult if you truly believe you are doing what is best for the company or your team, but being stubborn won’t help you achieve your goals. Compromise will help wrap up the conflict instead of continuing to battle it out.



You only know your side of the story, and while that may feel like the most important side, be sure to listen to your co-worker’s side too. You might be surprised to learn why she is upset with you or why she acted the way she did. The problem might be easier to solve than expected and by showing your co-worker you care about what she has to say, it will be resolved much quicker.


Let It Go

Whether you like it or not, you have to work with the person you have been disagreeing with for the foreseeable future. If the conflict is minor, and no resolution is in sight, it may be best just to let it go and move on. You won’t always see eye to eye with everyone you work with, and learning to move on from an unresolved conflict is an important professional lesson.


How do you successfully defuse conflicts at work before they escalate?