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How to Handle Conflict in the Workplace

Learn about some practical strategies you can use to handle conflict in the workplace.

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.
For more information, contact Employee Relations, (858) 534-4115.
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.