How to Handle Conflict in the Workplace

You certainly don’t have to be best friends with every single one of your coworkers, but considering that you will spend nearly 40 hours each week working and interacting with them, it doesn’t hurt to get along. There will doubtlessly be occasions of disagreement or conflict, but how you handle it will play a large role in your workplace environment.


Talk It Out

As with any conflict, the best place to start resolving a conflict is by approaching the person you have an issue with. Don’t begin the conversation with accusations or insults; instead, try to work it out together. While you may think they are in the wrong, it is entirely possible that they have an issue with you as well. It may simply be a misunderstanding or difference of opinion. Jamie, a hiring expert from Worthington Industries, provides a list of steps to take when approaching a coworker about a conflict. Jaime suggests:


“1) Start with only the facts that you have observed.

2) Ensure that you aren’t telling yourself a story about the situation or exaggerating.

3) Determine what you want long-term out of the situation and the conversation.

4) Create a safe environment by asking the person if they have time to talk about something that is bothering you.

5) Explain your side of the story and ask for clarification.” 1


Speak with HR

If speaking directly to the coworker that you have a conflict with doesn’t resolve it, or if you simply don’t feel comfortable with initiating that conversation, you can bring the issue to human resources. Part of their role at the company is to be a neutral party or mediator between employees. Steve, a hiring expert from Caterpillar, advises, “You can speak directly with your Human Resources department, or your company may have a department dedicated to business practices and ethics that you can reach out to help resolve such situations, anonymously if necessary.”2 This may be a good option if the person you are having a conflict with is a superior or if you feel uncomfortable approaching them for any reason.


Focus on Yourself

At the end of the day, you need to decide how much of an impact the conflict is making on your ability to work. If it is something minor, maybe you can learn to live with it, or at the very least, ignore it. Wendy, a hiring manager from Pitney Bowes, says, “Throughout life, we meet people we like and dislike. You need to focus on the work; it's always about the work. Managers and coworkers come and go, but the work remains. Keep conversations work-related, stay positive, and wow with your work performance.”3 If it is a larger issue and working with HR hasn’t resolved it, it may be time to face the tough decision of whether to stay or leave the company.


Again, you don’t have to love everyone that you work with, but avoiding conflict in the workplace can make it a better experience for everyone. By taking steps to resolve it, and escalating the issue to management or human resources if necessary, you can be happier and more productive.

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