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12 tips for diffusing office conflict

|  May 28, 2018

Conflict will happen in the workplace, and it will likely have a negative effect on everyone in the company. No matter what attitudes, differences, emotions, competition or ideals cause the conflict, here are some tips to help you handle it in a way that prompts resolution:

  1. Take action immediately. Delayed action allows the conflict to grow. Address the issue right away to prevent ongoing damage to morale, productivity and the company.
  2. Talk in person with the people involved. Avoid email or phone conversations, where words and tone can be misconstrued. Instead, opt to chat with the employee(s) in person — individually, at least at first.
  3. Assume the best. It’s easy to think the worst of others during a conflict. A positive attitude can make a big difference in the situation. It will be easier to get to the root cause of what could be just a simple misunderstanding or small problem that has escalated, if everyone involved is not immediately put on the defensive.
  4. Remain calm. Keeping a quiet, non-judgmental demeanor during your meeting(s) can help diffuse tension and prompt conversations that resolve the issue.
  5. See it from the employees’ perspective. Ask clarifying questions. Try to discern the motivation behind each person’s behavior and reactions, and gain insight into ways you can resolve the situation.
  6. Listen actively. Lean in slightly, unfold your arms, and without interrupting, listen to your employee’s complaint or perspective. Then paraphrase what he or she said to show that you were listening.
  7. Focus on the issue. Personal attacks damage any progress you may have made toward fixing the problem. Steer the conversation so that it stays on the professional conflict instead of any personal differences.
  8. Brainstorm a solution. After discussing the problem, ask the employee to share constructive ideas on how to solve the problem. There may be a simple solution to keeping all parties happy offered that you would have otherwise not considered.
  9. Stay in control. If you feel like you’re going to lose your cool, step away and take a break. Use that time to listen to relaxing music or a meditation app, reboot your emotions and regain control. With a cool head, you can resolve rather than escalate the conflict.
  10. Be ready to negotiate. To resolve the conflict in a civil manner, you may need to compromise — as long as you’re not sacrificing your core values or affecting safety in the company.
  11. Resist gossip. Gathering information from other colleagues about a given situation is one thing, but spreading gossip is another. You may even be tempted to vent to an employee about the situation, but your words could be shared throughout the office, increasing the problem. If you must get a second opinion about what to do, talk to someone you trust outside of work.
  12. Take any claims of harassment or bullying seriously. Make it known to every employee up front that that such behaviors will not be tolerated.
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PJ Taei is founder of He can be reached at

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