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How to Handle Conflict in the Workplace

When people work together, conflict is often unavoidable because of differences in work goals and personal styles. Follow these guidelines for handling conflict in the workplace.

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1. Talk with the other person.

  • Ask the other person to name a time when it would be convenient to meet.
  • Arrange to meet in a place where you won't be interrupted.

2. Focus on behavior and events, not on personalities.

  • Say “When this happens …” instead of “When you do …”
  • Describe a specific instance or event instead of generalizing.

3. Listen carefully.

  • Listen to what the other person is saying instead of getting ready to react.
  • Avoid interrupting the other person.
  • After the other person finishes speaking, rephrase what was said to make sure you understand it.
  • Ask questions to clarify your understanding.

4. Identify points of agreement and disagreement.

  • Summarize the areas of agreement and disagreement.
  • Ask the other person if he or she agrees with your assessment.
  • Modify your assessment until both of you agree on the areas of conflict.

5. Prioritize the areas of conflict.

  • Discuss which areas of conflict are most important to each of you to resolve.

6. Develop a plan to work on each conflict.

  • Start with the most important conflict.
  • Focus on the future.
  • Set up future meeting times to continue your discussions.

7. Follow through on your plan.

  • Stick with the discussions until you’ve worked through each area of conflict.
  • Maintain a collaborative, “let’s-work-out-a-solution” attitude.

8. Build on your success.

  • Look for opportunities to point out progress.
  • Compliment the other person’s insights and achievements.
  • Congratulate each other when you make progress, even if it’s just a small step. Your hard work will pay off when scheduled discussions eventually give way to ongoing, friendly communication.

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Notice: The information on this page summarizes provisions of university policies and/or collective bargaining agreements. Refer to the Personnel Policies for Staff Members (PPSM) and local implementing procedures or applicable collective bargaining agreement for full text of referenced information.