How are conflicts handled in the workplace?

Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. That's why we focus on how best to manage the conflicts that may arise in your working life. 

Although we think we're good at being constructive when conflict arises, it often turns out that the grips we use are more escalating than de-escalating - despite our good intentions.

When employees with different backgrounds, working styles and priorities have to work together, conflicts can quickly arise - especially if disagreements are not caught and dealt with before they escalate. 

Often it is not only the content of the disagreement, but also the way we say things and the signals we send with our body language - which can escalate the conflict. Conflicts can affect the working environment and reduce job satisfaction. That is why it is so important that we learn how to deal with conflicts in the best possible way when they arise.

Conflicts often arise in the workplace when...

  • personal and professional differences clash. These differences can be, for example, age, gender or background.  
  • the needs of employees are not being met.
  • the division of roles is unclear. 
  • management is deficient or not functioning. 
  • communication does not work and misunderstandings arise.  
  • employees have conflicting goals and working methods

Conflicts may manifest themselves as microaggressions, insults, antagonisms, outbursts of anger or bullying. It can result in distress, stress and discomfort for the employees involved.

Conflicts can affect the working environment and reduce job satisfaction. That's why it's so important that we learn to manage conflicts as best we can when they arise.

5 tips for dealing with conflict at work:

  1. Intervene before the conflict escalates - engage with your colleague as soon as the disagreement arises so you can talk things through and find a mutual solution before it escalates.

  2. Listen to the other person - approach conflict management with an open mind and try to put yourself in the other person's shoes. Respect that you are different and that there should be room for both of you in the workplace, even if you don't always agree.

  3. Be constructive - it's not about blame and innocence, but about finding a mutual solution to the conflict. Remember, it's not about being right, it's about learning about the other person's point of view so you can better understand why they act and think the way they do.

  4. Watch your language - always keep the person and the issue separate. Maintain a good tone and make sure not to be accusatory. Instead, curiously ask for the other person's point of view and explain your own reasons. Then together you can find a solution that works for both of you.

  5. Follow up - schedule a time to talk again and follow up on whether the joint solution is working in practice for both parties.

As said, conflicts are inevitable - especially in diverse and psychologically safe working environments. Therefore, conflicts can also be positive and constructive for the development of the organization or the well-being of employees.

Does your company need advice to create an inclusive work environment with space to deal with conflicts that may arise? Then contact us here. 

Nikoline Nybo

BA Anthropology and Kaospilot.

Experience in cultural analysis and anthropological methodology, project management and process design, organisational development and facilitation.

Louise Marie Genefke

Cand. mag. Marketing & Communication, MA Management and External Lecturer AU.

Experience with management, talent and organizational development, facilitation and Employer Branding.