Conflict in the workplace is incredibly common, put a group of diverse individuals into a shared space for 8 hours a day 5 days a week and tensions are bound to appear at some point. Most of the conflicts I have seen result from minor interpersonal differences where people don’t ‘gel’ personality wise or from people doing things that start off as mildly annoying but can quickly escalate to be infuriating, such as people talking too loudly, hogging the printer or leaving dirty dishes in the sink. Larger issues, such as a strong lack of cooperation, poor performance or bullying and harassment should always be brought to the attention of HR, who have strict processes for effectively dealing with these types of issues.


Here are five suggestions that I have found can make a huge difference when trying to resolve a minor issue at work:


  • Do not let it escalate to breaking point, discuss the issue early on before it becomes an even bigger problem and potentially draws more people into it.


  • Be fair and give the other person a headsup that you want to catch up with them to discuss the issue, so they are not blindsided when you do sit down with them.


  • Consider the possibility that this conflict could have arisen from a simple misunderstanding due to different communication styles and/or personalities. If this is the case then some compromise will be required from both of you to accommodate this and to ensure the issue is put to bed.


  • Keep it professional and mature– avoid namecalling, being passive aggressive or just outright aggressive, because these are never appropriate responses for dealing with conflict – they will only make things worse and will make you look like the bad guy!


  • Try to keep your emotions in check, crying or yelling will only make it awkward and uncomfortable for both of you, so if you feel like you might swing this way take some time out beforehand to channel and calm your thoughts.


Ultimately, I think attitude is everything when you are trying to settle conflict; if you want to foster a productive and happy work environment then you need to take a balanced and thoughtful approach to how you deal with issues with your colleagues. It is important to acknowledge that we are not always going to like the people we work with and there will be people that we do not form a strong bond with, which is totally okay, so long as we maintain a professional and courteous relationship with each other, especially when issues arise.


And remember: any bigger issues should always be addressed to HR and resolved through them. Trying to settle those big issues outside the influence of the HR Department can lead to even bigger problems.


Written by Alisa Moore, Research & Community Manager at Gaulter Russell Numero.