How to Manage Conflict: 3 Ways to Resolve Disagreements at Work

A leader is managing conflict at work by taking time to reflect.

Disagreements are inevitable. Whether over projects, misunderstandings or unmet expectations, conflicts can arise seemingly out of nowhere and can lead to unspoken tension and hurt feelings.

You need to handle disagreements with your coworkers as soon as possible. But with conflicting opinions and high emotions, it can be easier said than done. So how can you carefully and respectfully work through disagreements? 

Here are three ways to begin managing conflict at work.

1. Listen. 

When you disagree with someone, it can become almost second nature to become defensive and stop listening to what they have to say. You may unintentionally listen for weak points in their argument or places where you can interject, and in doing so, forget to consider the other person’s perspective. 

Take time to listen and try to understand where the other person is coming from. Be intentional about really listening to what they have to say, objectively considering their side and appreciating their unique perspective. Only by truly listening and respecting the other person’s opinion can you begin to look for solutions together.

2. Discuss your frustrations. 

Now that you’ve taken time to understand their perspective, it’s important that you both discuss your frustrations. Oftentimes, both parties may feel upset but not talk about their feelings, thinking that it would only make the situation worse. 

Don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings. Be intentional about sharing your hurts calmly and respectfully, allowing room for questions or further discussion. Being open about what you’re feeling allows both of you to find common ground in what you’re experiencing. It can also reduce unspoken tension, restore a sense of honesty and begin to rebuild trust. Once your true feelings are out in the open, you can begin managing conflict at work by empathizing with your team and finding ways to move forward together.

3. Look for compromises.

Once you have taken the time to understand each other’s point of view and shared your frustrations, it’s time to start looking for solutions. To that, you need to both be willing to find a middle ground, as difficult as it might be.

Explore creative alternatives together and look for areas you can both flex on while maintaining your convictions. If you seem to be stuck on opposite ends of the spectrum, work on trying to find a middle ground or getting closer to it. Look for solutions that could work for both of you and provide some of what you are both looking for. A shared compromise is a great way to break the stalemate and show you are interested in working through the disagreement together.

Conflicts don’t always disappear overnight. Even after solutions have been discussed and put in place, it can take time for trust to be fully restored. Take time to check in with the other person. Offer your help, and ask if there’s anything you can do to encourage and support them while making yourself available for continued conversation. By reaching out, you can start to rebuild trust, show you care and help prevent future misunderstandings.