Imagine Health

Dealing with Conflict in the Workplace

Conflict in the workplace is inevitable and can come in many different forms. It may be that two employees don’t get on; workplace teams rival against each other; or an employee might have a grievance issue with a manager.

So how can you manage this conflict? To prevent the conflict issue from getting worse, it is important to intervene as soon as possible. Spotting the signs of conflict can be obvious at times, however can also easily go unnoticed. So it is important to be able to recognise this signs.

Recognising the signs

Conflict can be recognisable at times, for example, two employees arguing; however some conflict situations are less obvious. Some employees might hide their feelings or isolate themselves from the rest of the team. It is important to watch out for the following:

  1. Decrease in motivation
  2. Changes in behaviour
  3. Drops in productivity
  4. Increases in sick days

Some of the signs can be measured and monitored. Although being able to recognise other symptoms shows how perceptive you are to the atmosphere in your workplace. Spotting the conflict early can prevent it from escalating any further and gives you a better chance of:

  1. Recognising the cause of the conflict
  2. Achieving a reasonable agreement
  3. And in return, resolving the conflict

Working through the conflict

  1. Ask – if you have a conflict issue with another co-worker, the first step to resolving an issue is to politely ask the other person if you don’t understand their viewpoint or their actions. Never assume anyone is doing something just to annoy you or get on your nerves. People usually have a good reason for the things they do.
  2. If the conflict is more entrenched, then it is best to invite the other person, using Giraffe Language, to an undisturbed location so the conflict can be calmly resolved.

Giraffe language, also known as nonviolent communication (NVC) was developed by Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960s.

4 steps to applying NVC:

  • Observe what is happening and describe the situation in a neutral, objective manner:

I see … / I hear … / the situation is …

  • Identify/express your feelings/ take responsibility of your part: Then I feel …
  • Find the need behind your feeling: My need is …/ because I would like … / I desire … / I need …
  • Formulate a clear, positive, doable request: Please will you … / Are you willing to do this…?
  1. Listen – Listen to what the other person has to say. Try not to interrupt. Repeat back what you just heard, to make sure you understand. Ask questions if you have any.
  2. Agree & Disagree – review the areas that you agree and disagree with each other. Modify the review until all the areas of the conflict are agreed upon.
  3. Plan to Resolve – start to work on a plan to resolve each area of the conflict, starting with the one you both feel is most important. Set up another meeting for a future date to discuss how the plan is working.
  4. Stick to the plan – follow through on the plan until all areas of the conflict are solved.
  5. Praise one another – Compliment and congratulate each other on your achievements and the progress you have made.

What if it doesn’t work?

There is no guarantee that the method described here will work, however you will have the satisfaction of knowing you have tried to positively and effectively address the conflict.


Written By Alannagh Kelly