Dealing with Conflict

Conflict is inevitable but not all conflict is bad. Tension is necessary for success in business and it can either be healthy or unhealthy. We can choose to deal with conflict in productive ways or ignore it and allow it to undermine our leadership, negatively impact relationships, and take away from the company’s bottom line.

Conflict often arises because people:

  • Have different points of view and behavior drives and needs.
  • Communicate with one another differently.
  • Spend large amounts of time together.
  • Depend on one another to “get the job done.”
  • Have established expectations of one another that are not communicated and then not met.

Here are a few strategies to use in dealing with conflict…


The first step in dealing with risk is avoidance – planning for every possible situation that could go wrong and working to prevent it.

We recommend the same thing with conflict. Communicate effectively, establish an effective feedback loop, and build trust and cohesion with your teams. Conflict will be so much easier to manage.

Attack the issue, not the person.

Conflict is NOT about who is right and wrong in a situation. It is about resolving the matter in a diligent, effective way with outcomes that result in growth for individuals and the company.

When dealing with conflict, we must focus on the issue and not the person. We must communicate to the person or people that we are working to resolve the conflict and ask them to do the same. Think of the saying “Check yourself at the door.”

This is especially hard when we are dealing with conflict with someone who annoys us. We must stay focused on the issue.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People states for Habit 5, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” It is important to focus on factual information and ask questions to get the full picture of the conflict. Doing so clears a clean path to the issue and outcome and also avoids overlooking any pertinent details.

Disagreement can equal ideas!

Conflict does not always have to be negative. When employees are able to challenge one another’s ideas in a supportive environment, new ideas are generated and fostered. Everybody gets to hold everybody accountable.

Here are examples of healthy and unhealthy conflict:

Healthy conflict:

  • Being aware of and discussing tension in the workplace surrounding issues, projects, relationships, and general work to be done.
  • Working through disagreements in a respectful and thoughtful environment.
  • Challenging ideas.

Damaging conflict:

  • Gossip
  • Slander
  • Personal attack on someone. (verbally/physically)Withdrawing from conflict and holding a grudge.
  • Cliques

You are everywhere you go. Because of that, everything that we carry and have going on goes with us…at home, at work, and everywhere else. We must consider that we and others carry everything we have going on everywhere we go. We need to be aware to set aside our agenda/cares/worries when dealing with conflict.

It is important to remember that conflict will always exist between employees. Effective supervisors have the skills to manage the conflict process and turn disagreements into ideas. If you need consultation to deal with conflict, contact us – we can help!

-Melissa Spangler

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