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How to Manage Conflict with a Co-Worker

Conflicts can happen anywhere in life: at home, between friends, at work, and elsewhere. Any dispute can be difficult and stressful, but work conflicts can feel especially intimidating. We have some tips to help you manage conflict with a co-worker.

Assess the Situation

What’s the nature of the conflict? When did it start? If you assess it honestly, it may help you figure out how to resolve it. Whatever you do, don’t just pretend it doesn’t exist; that doesn’t help. Begin by admitting there’s a problem that needs resolution. Acknowledge the conflict and the roles you and the other person have played in creating or sustaining the problem.

It’s essential to be honest during this assessment, even if you start to realize that you’ve been part of creating this conflict. During this assessment, it may become apparent that you’re blameless, but it may go the other way, as well. If you bear part of the blame, acknowledging it is the first step toward resolving the conflict. It takes guts and no small amount of humility to admit you have caused workplace conflict, which otherwise could have been avoided.

Decide a Course of Action

After you assess the situation, you can begin figuring out the best way to deal with it. There are many different types of solutions because there are many kinds of conflicts. A minor dispute between you and a co-worker may be resolved with a quick chat. A bigger conflict may require an office-wide meeting. No matter what you end up choosing, though, make sure to approach the conversation with a level head, open mind, and positive attitude.

Both parties need to be truly invested in resolving the conflict and moving on from it. Agreeing solely for the sake of appearances can lead to grudges that deepen over time, undoing any progress you’ve made together.

HR or Management Can Help When Necessary

If your attempts to resolve the conflict don’t work, it may be time to report the issue to a manager or Human Resources. However, be aware that people in these roles may ask if you’ve attempted to resolve it on your own. Managers don’t like to get involved in workplace drama unless necessary, so only resort to this if talking to your colleague on your own isn’t bringing fruitful results.

It’s essential to note that there are a few important exceptions to this. Is this issue a small thing between you and a co-worker, or does it go further than that in some way? This information is another reason why your assessment of the situation must be completely honest. Human Resources must always be informed about certain types of workplace conflicts, such as those that may involve harassment, discrimination, illegal activities, or other matters that could lead to lawsuits or involvement of law enforcement.

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