How to Resolve a Conflict with a Colleague

Dec 3, 2012
6 Min Read
Tips on how to resolve workplace conflict

Tips on how to resolve workplace conflictOne of the most stressful situations to face in the workplace is a conflict with a co-worker. Whether it’s a long-standing feud that you can’t even recall how it began or a recent spat that has made work tense and miserable for you, not getting along in a civil manner with colleagues is often painful.

You may wrestle with how to resolve the conflict. Or, maybe you consider not doing a thing – it wasn’t your fault, after all! The other person needs to apologize, you think.

But while you wage an internal debate about what to do, the situation may only get worse. Your conflict may make other colleagues feel as if they’re being forced to choose sides, or your boss may become irritated you can’t get along with others. The result is that an unresolved conflict can hurt your career, not to mention the tension that can bring on physical ailments such as headaches and sleepless nights.

Steps to Resolve Conflict with a Colleague

There are several steps you can take to try and resolve the conflict or at least keep it from wrecking your career. Consider:

  • Communicating like a grown up. No hiding behind email or texts. Emails and texts can be misinterpreted and certainly don’t convey sincerity or instill trust. Meet with the person privately in a face-to-face conversation.
  • Not expecting miracles.  Even if you get some issues out in the open, your negative feelings aren’t going to disappear overnight and that may be true for the other person as well. The old adage about time healing all wounds should be heeded – give yourself time to get past the experience.
  • Finding the value. You may believe the only thing you have gotten from the experience is an annoying eye tick, but conflict can help you grow. Take the time to consider what led to the conflict and the role you played. Is this kind of conflict something that has happened more than once? Could you take some steps to avoid it in the future by changing your behavior or strategy?
  • Keeping your perspective. From the time you were a child, conflict has been a part of your life whether you were fighting over a toy with a sibling or arguing with a parent about curfew. Any conflict at work is just that – another conflict. Don’t let it overwhelm your life so that you carry it with you and start arguing with family or friends.
  • Forgiving yourself. Sometimes you can’t let go of a conflict because you keep replaying it over and over in your mind, thinking of all the things you should have said or done. But you cannot change the past, so learn to forgive yourself and let go.

How to Stay Upbeat After a Conflict

Once you have gotten past the conflict, you may still find yourself struggling to remain upbeat or not be sucked back into another bad situation. If you’re looking to stay out of such struggles, try:

  • Avoiding the Debbie Downers. There are sometimes certain colleagues who are forever in a dismal place, and want others to join them. Limit your interactions with such people because their negativity can be just as contagious as the flu.
  • Starting a new pattern. Recent political ads often were negative, and you may have learned to avoid the candidate robo-calls or the hateful television ads. You can do the same now by avoiding the negative messages that others still like to spew. Try to get a daily dose of stories about people doing good works to help keep your view more positive.
  • Stepping carefully into social media conversations. It can be fun to connect with friends via Twitter or Facebook, but avoid snarky interactions with strangers. It can only make you feel isolated and negative when you engage in a tit-for-tat conversation about the breakup of Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber, for example.
  • Taking down time. Know your limits and when you need to turn off your cellphone or computer. Don’t push yourself so much that you’re headed for burnout. Instead, find something fun that you enjoy and consider that as important in your health routine as eating well and exercising.

How do you handle conflict at work and stay positive?

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