How to deal with workplace conflict?

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In modern workplaces, we all come from diverse backgrounds and have different work styles. So workplace conflicts happen and they cannot be completely avoided. They can be quite stressful to everyone involved. So it is important to learn to deal with them.

In my last 15 years of experience, I have witnessed many forms of conflicts like managers spatting over ownership of projects or engineers fighting over code reviews or someone posting something inappropriate in team rooms. The ways dealing with conflicts are very much situational. But based on my experiences, I have a few suggestions you can try -

1. Don't ignore

This is a very common mistake. It is important to raise your concerns as soon as you find a conflicting situation. Ignoring it often makes it worse.

2. Try resolving 1:1

The more the people involved, the harder it gets to resolve it. Escalating issues early on only leads to unproductive outcomes. So if you have a problem with someone you work with, you should set up a 1:1 conversation and try to resolve it between yourselves. If that does not work, then get someone else involved.

3. Show empathy

It is important to remember that we all are humans and we make mistakes. So before jumping to conclusions, you should put yourself in opposite person's shoes and really think about the issue at hand.

4. Be specific and stick with facts

Whenever you discuss the issue, try to be specific and factual. Getting emotional in such situations can make the matter worse.

5. Understand and apologise

If you are the one making the mistake, try to properly understand the reasons of conflict and then apologise. In fact, I have seen a few situations where a person making a mistake not only apologised but also shared his learning with the rest of the team.

While conflicts are never fun, I have always felt that if you take them in the right spirit, they can help you become a better individual.

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