Conflicts at your workplace

Do you know what to do when there is a conflict at work? If you’ve ever been a part of a conflict or stood on the side while your teammates were in conflict, you know how much time and energy it can take up. Not just for the involved parties, but the whole team. If you know what you should keep an eye out for, and how conflict arises, you are already well on your way.

What characterises a conflict? There needs to be two different conditions fulfilled, before it can be called a conflict:

  1. There is a disagreement between two parties – perhaps you disagree on how a task should be solved or prioritised.

  2. The focus is no longer just on the task, but on the person – you think negatively about the other party, and the relationship is tense.

This means that there can be a disagreement – or several throughout the day – without it being an open conflict. This is not the time to ignore the problem. It is important you, both as a leader or co-worker, to know how to deal with a brewing conflict in the team.

How to spot a conflict evolving

Have you ever wondered how a conflict between you and someone you know started? Maybe you can’t even remember. Conflicts starts from the littlest things, but in the workplace, there are often a few trigger-points. Often we see that conflicts at work start because of hardcore deadlines and a heavy workload. Being under pressure, and not having the resources to work faster can be a stress factor that makes tasks more complicated.

And everyone knows what happens when we feel stress. We might snap faster than usual. Or we are overwhelmed by something or someone. Having stressed employees can evolve into conflicts much faster than usual. The same happens, if there is a lot of change in the work environment or organisation, because the employees get insecure about their jobs.  

How can you spot a conflict as it begins to arise in the team? First of all, you should be looking at the behavior: perhaps one of your co-workers starts acting differently; or doesn’t want to cooperate with others; or appears more introverted than usual. If you’ve observed this, you should consider if there is conflict building up.

You can also look at the social gatherings. Is anyone trying to build alliances, talking behind other co-workers backs? Also notice the energy level of people. Are they tired? Without energy? Have less motivation? Or more frequently absent from work? All are indicators you should be aware of.

The 7 steps in a conflict

A conflict can be put into seven steps, and often you will find, that no matter what kind of conflict you are looking at, they follow the same script. This doesn’t mean that people in the conflict are all at the same step, at the same time. As well, you might move up and down the steps quickly or slowly as the situation alters.


Manage the conflict by talking

A way to manage, and ultimately end, the conflict is by talking, and by actually listening. Really get to understand the other party, opening up in a positive way, even if you are hurt or angry. Do your best to go into the conversation with a positive mindset about the other party, and put aside personal issues.

Understanding is a key part to ending a conflict. You need to understand where the other party is coming from and what they need from you. You will of course, need to explain to them what you need too and then work together on how both your needs and theirs can be met.

The above article is byTine Dührr, digital content manager at – a Danish search engine for further education. The company is a part of Educations Media Group, a multinational organization, with search engines in both Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, France, UK and USA. It is used here with permission.