Federal Careers

Feeling hot under the collar and it’s not the summer heat? Especially at work? Do not let workplace conflicts get out of hand. Take a deep breath and cool down…there are constructive ways of managing workplace conflicts.

Accept that conflict is natural and unavoidable. Wherever there are two or more people, conflict is inevitable. And in many cases (if handled correctly), conflict can be beneficial if you and your organization learn from it. First, think about the cause of the conflict; is it about communication? Lack of information? Uneven resources? Different values? Feeling overworked? Something else? Identifying the cause of the conflict (at least in your view) is the first step. Spend a few minutes thinking about the conflict from the other person’s perspective as well.

Next, think about how the conflict manifests itself. Has behavior deteriorated? Are you no longer receiving the information you need to do your job? Is the conflict important enough to address? Once you have decided that the conflict needs to be addressed and you’re ready to speak with the person in question, focus on the problem in the abstract rather than in terms of the other person’s personality. Do not make the conflict personal; focus on framing the issue around how it affects you at work.

If the issue is worth addressing directly, make sure you approach the person at an appropriate time and place. Verify that the other person has time to talk and you both can do so uninterrupted by phone calls and emails. Bring up the issue you’d like to discuss. Do not make accusations, and do not assume that you know why the person is acting in a particular way…or that they even know there is a problem. Use “I” statements, rather than “You” statements when telling this person how you feel. Make your perspective known, say how you feel and that you’d like to come up with a mutual solution and look for areas of conflict and agreement so you know what to focus on.

If it turns out you were wrong about something, or in-the-wrong overall, apologize and move on. Otherwise it could even help the situation in the long run for you to simply apologize for your part in the matter. And, once you agree on next steps together, keep your commitment. And follow up periodically with the other person to see how things are from their perspective – especially if lack of communication was what led to the situation in the first place. You don’t have to become best friends but a little “preventative maintenance” in your relationship with this person could go a long way – especially if you wind up pulling in the same direction and understand each other better.