Effective Strategies to Handle Conflict in the Workplace

Jun 6, 2023 | Communication, Anger, Stress

Conflict is an inevitable part of life, and it’s no different in the workplace. With different personalities, opinions, and goals, it’s easy for conflicts to arise. In fact, a survey involving 5,000 full-time employees showed that conflict was experienced by 85% of the respondents to some extent while 29% reported encountering conflict on a frequent or constant basis in their workplace. If left unchecked, conflict can lead to decreased morale, decreased productivity, and even employee turnover. That’s why it’s essential to have effective strategies to handle conflict in the workplace. Below, we’ll explore some of the most effective strategies to handle conflict in the workplace, so you can create a more harmonious and productive work environment.

Common Sources Of Workplace Conflict

Workplace conflicts are a common occurrence in any organization, and they can arise from a variety of sources. One of the most significant sources of workplace conflicts is communication issues, such as misinterpretation of messages, lack of clarity, or ineffective communication channels. 

Another source of conflict is differences in personality and work style, where employees may clash due to different approaches to work or communication. Additionally, conflicts can arise from differing priorities, goals, or values, which can lead to disagreements on how to handle work-related issues. 

Organizational changes, such as restructuring or downsizing, can also create uncertainty and conflict among employees. Lastly, conflicts can stem from power imbalances, where employees feel that they are not being treated fairly or that their contributions are not valued. Understanding these sources of workplace conflict and developing strategies to manage them is crucial for creating a positive and productive work environment.

Workplaces That Experience Significant Conflict

Workplace conflicts can occur in any industry, profession, or organization, regardless of its size or structure. Even so, certain workplaces may be more prone to conflict than others due to various factors such as the nature of the work, the organization’s culture, or the level of stress associated with the job. Some workplaces that may experience more conflict than others include:

  • Healthcare: Healthcare settings can be high-pressure environments, and conflicts can arise between healthcare professionals, patients, and their families.
  • Education: In the education sector, conflicts may arise between teachers, students, and parents over issues such as academic performance, discipline, and communication.
  • Retail: Retail environments can be stressful, and conflicts may occur between employees and customers over issues such as returns, refunds, or customer service.
  • Law enforcement: Law enforcement personnel may experience conflicts due to the nature of their work, which can involve high-stress situations and interactions with the public.
  • Technology: In the fast-paced and high-pressure tech industry, conflicts can arise between team members over issues such as workloads, project timelines, and communication.
Strategies For Handling Workplace Conflict

Address Conflict Early On: The longer you wait to address conflict, the more difficult it becomes to resolve. Therefore, it’s important to address the conflict early on. This means addressing the issue as soon as you become aware of it. If you wait too long, the situation may escalate, making it more difficult to resolve.

Use Active Listening: Active listening is a crucial skill when it comes to resolving conflict. Active listening involves fully concentrating on what the other person is saying, acknowledging what they’re saying, and showing empathy. With this strategy, you can better understand the other person’s perspective and what’s causing the conflict.

Stay Calm: When emotions are running high, it’s easy to say or do things that you might later regret. Therefore, it’s important to stay calm when resolving conflicts. Take deep breaths, count to ten, or take a break if you need to. Staying calm can allow you to approach the situation in a more rational and productive way.

Focus On The Issue, Not The Person: When resolving conflict, it’s important to focus on the issue rather than the person. Instead of blaming or attacking the other person, focus on the problem at hand. By doing this, you can work together to find a solution rather than making the situation personal.

Find Common Ground: Finding common ground can help to resolve conflict. It’s important to look for areas of agreement between the parties involved. By finding common ground, you can work together toward a solution that works for everyone.

Seek To Understand: When resolving conflict, it’s important to seek to understand the other person’s perspective. This means asking questions and actively listening to what the other person has to say. By doing this, you can better understand where the other person is coming from and what’s causing the conflict.

Collaborate To Find A Solution: Collaboration is key when it comes to resolving conflict. Rather than imposing a solution, work together to find a solution that works for everyone involved. This means listening to everyone’s perspective and coming up with a solution that addresses everyone’s concerns.

Use Positive Language: When resolving conflict, it’s important to use positive language. This means avoiding negative language such as “you always” or “you never.” Instead, use language that focuses on finding a solution rather than blaming or attacking the other person.

Follow-Up: After resolving a conflict, it’s important to follow up to ensure that the issue has been fully resolved. This means checking in with everyone involved to ensure that they’re happy with the solution and that there are no lingering issues. 

Get Outside Help If Necessary: Although unfortunate, sometimes conflicts can’t be resolved internally, and it’s necessary to seek outside help. This might involve bringing in a mediator or an HR representative. After seeking outside help, you can ensure that the conflict is resolved in a fair and impartial way.

Can Conflict Ever Be Healthy?

While conflict in the workplace is primarily viewed as negative, it can actually be beneficial in certain circumstances. When handled properly, conflict can lead to improved communication, increased collaboration, and better decision-making. In small doses, it can be healthy to some degree.

Healthy conflict can help to surface differing perspectives and ideas, which can ultimately lead to more creative solutions to problems. It can also bring underlying issues to the surface, allowing for them to be addressed and resolved. Conflict can also create an opportunity for individuals to better understand each other’s viewpoints and work towards a common goal.

However, it’s vital to note that conflict must be managed effectively in order for it to be beneficial. If conflict is left unresolved, it can lead to a toxic work environment and decreased productivity. It’s important for managers and team members to address conflicts head-on, in a respectful and constructive manner. 

By using these effective strategies to handle conflict in the workplace, you can create a more harmonious and productive work environment. Following the above strategies can allow you to turn conflict into an opportunity for growth and improvement. However, it’s important to remember that conflict resolution is not a one-time solution. It’s an ongoing process that requires continuous effort and communication. Because of this, it’s important to create a workplace culture that values open communication, mutual respect, and teamwork.

New Dimensions Can Help!

New Dimensions provides Intensive Treatment Programs for adolescents and adults who are struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues.  We have locations in Katy, The Woodlands, and Houston, Texas and have online telehealth programs for individuals who reside within the State of Texas.  To learn more about our programs, contact us at 800-685-9796 or visit our website at www.nddtreatment.com.  You can also learn about individual, family, and couples therapy by visiting www.mhthrive.com.


Keywords: Workplace conflict; conflict; employee conflict; conflict in the workplace; conflict solutions