Workplace conflicts: how to deal with them

Friction with colleagues is a fact of life that must be faced


Face it: You’re going to have conflicts in the workplace. They’re unavoidable. But if you keep these simple – albeit difficult to act on – rules in mind, you’ll learn to navigate conflict more productively. 1. Stay focused on the most essential objectives. It’s easy to become aggravated by other people’s actions and forget what you were trying to achieve in the first place.

2. Don’t fight over things that don’t matter.

3. Build an empathetic understanding of others’ points of view.

4. Adhere to the old adage: Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. People naturally like pleasant interactions and seek to avoid discomfort. Consequently, we tend to shun those with whom we’re having disagreements. Bad idea. You cannot know what others are thinking or doing if you don’t engage with them.

5. Use humour to defuse difficult situations. For example, when Ronald Reagan ran for president of the United States, he was (at the time) the oldest person to have ever been a candidate for that office. During the 1984, Kansas City debate with the Democratic candidate, Walter Mondale, one of the questioners asked Reagan if he thought age would be an issue in the upcoming election. His reply? “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

In association with Harvard Business Review