Professional Primer: How to resolve conflict with your coworkers

Written on Nov 09, 2017

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA content manager

Professional Primer is our series to help you navigate the tricky world of business etiquette. Read more online here.

Work closely with the same group of people long enough and there are bound to be disagreements. And learning to resolve these conflicts productively can have a significant impact on your career.

Danetha_Doe“Conflict resolution is one of the biggest skills we can learn as professionals,” said Danetha Doe of Danetha Doe Consulting Group. “It’s about establishing respect from your colleagues when you realize that you’re not always going to agree, but that you can bring up your viewpoints in a logical, coherent, direct manner.”

First, determine whether the issue is a minor annoyance or something that you just can’t get past.

“If it’s something that’s distracted you from work or you feel like you can’t show up fully as a team player because you feel uncomfortable or disrespected, then it needs to be resolved,” Doe said.

She said to reach out to the individual and have a private conversation to discuss your concerns. It might be uncomfortable for the both of you, but try to approach the conversation calmly and with an open mind. While this is an issue for you, the other person might be completely unaware, so coming to them upset isn’t the best way to a resolution.

Doe said in addition to bringing up your viewpoint, it’s also important to try to understand the other person’s perspective. Your goal is to resolve the conflict, and trying to understand their reasoning is a crucial part of that.

As for what not to do, Doe advised not taking the situation personally, which she admitted can be tough.

“This is challenging because you’re talking about your perspective and a situation that doesn’t feel good to you,” she said. “Avoid using demeaning terms or labeling the person when you’re speaking to them.”

Document the process along the way, could prove to be a benefit in the long run.

“After you have these conversations, document it,” Doe said. “Through email recall what you both agreed upon. It’s important to have a clarity point, and if it continues to be an issue where there isn’t a resolution you want some sort of documentation to share with HR.”

These conversations can be tricky, especially if it’s a subject you feel awkward bringing up. But Doe said it’s important to be your own advocate and this is a worthwhile career skill to develop.

“Conflict resolution isn’t a bad thing. It just shows there are different perspectives and it’s an opportunity to see something differently,” she said. “It’s a way to foster conversation with your colleagues and it’s not something to be fearful of.”

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