shutterstock_17988037I’m fielding a lot of questions these days from clients as to how to address workplace conflict.

Whether it’s an aggressive boss, a co-worker who’s competitive or a secretary with a bad attitude, workplace conflict interferes with our productivity, adds to our stress levels, and can make our workday downright miserable.

Of course, some workplace conflict can escalate to abuse, a topic I’ve written about before which needs a different set of strategies. But if you find yourself in circumstances that are tense or difficult, but not abusive, here are some quick and easy strategies to diffuse that conflict and get back on the right foot.

1) Set the stage for a discussion with the person with whom you have conflict.

This means making an appointment to sit down and talk at a time when you are both available, and planning to do it behind closed doors. Advise the other person that you’d like to talk about your working relationship, and politely ask if you can find a mutually convenient time.

This is not a conversation that should be had in public or by the office water cooler, or when you are unprepared, so be sure to book time on the calendar, and have the conversation in a private place.

2) Map out the conversation in advance, with the goal to get to the desired place of resolution.

Do you want your boss to give you better instructions or stop demanding that you do things on a Friday night? If so, think about how you would get to that place of resolution. How would the conversation flow? How would you deal with potential responses? What would be the most diplomatic way to get there? How would you like everyone involved to feel at the end of the conversation?

By planning out the conversation in advance, you are more likely to get the sought-after result, and anticipate how you will respond to any reactions from the other party so that you get to where you want to go.

3) At the start of your meeting, begin with an apology.

This is the step that most of my clients have the hardest time swallowing. However, it’s important to recognize that workplace conflict is a two-way street. If you and your secretary have a contentious relationship, for instance, chances are good that there is something he or she may need from you that you have not been offering, or that your communication style could be more effective.

Owning your role in workplace conflict is the first step to resolving it. (tweet this)

And starting with an apology is also an effective way of disarming defensiveness and making the other party more receptive to solutions. Own your role in the conflict, apologize, and take it from there.

4) Follow your roadmap for an effective conversation, and at the end, express gratitude.

That’s right: be thankful for the person’s time, for their willingness to meet with you, and for any agreements to change behavior that you’ve reached. Gratitude is a good way to seal the deal on putting a new foot forward at work, and making sure that the other person feels appreciated.

Clients that I have taken through this methodology have found resolutions to their workplace conflicts in no time, and some have even managed to build supportive and friendly relationships thereafter with their prior nemesis. Your workplace, your stress level and your productivity will benefit from these efforts, so get to it!

Wishing you a conflict-free week!


PS. Did you miss my big announcement over email yesterday? Be sure you’re on my mailing list so you don’t miss out next time, and in the interim, check out what’s happening over at 40 Percent and Rising, where we’re changing the world for primary breadwinner women.




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