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How Do I Resolve Conflict With Coworkers?

author image Karen Kleinschmidt
Karen Kleinschmidt has been writing since 2007. Her short stories and articles have appeared in "Grandma's Choice," "Treasure Box" and "Simple Joy." She has worked with children with ADHD, sensory issues and behavioral problems, as well as adults with chronic mental illness. Kleinschmidt holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Montclair State University.
How Do I Resolve Conflict With Coworkers?
Conflict between employees in board room. Photo Credit Nick White/Photodisc/Getty Images

You likely try to avoid conflict in the workplace as much as you can, but sometimes conflicts with coworkers arise that are impossible to overlook. Before it turns into a screaming match, do what you can to resolve your differences regarding the attitudes, ideas or beliefs that led to the conflict. "U.S. News and World Report" recommends approaching your coworkers with a calm, positive outlook in a neutral location, and speaking to them about the issue in a respectful, non-accusatory manner.

Question the Behavior

Ask your coworkers questions about the specific issue that has created conflict, suggests Steve Dinkin, president of the San Diego, California-based National Conflict Resolution Center in the "CIO" article, "Workplace Conflict: How to Defuse Battles With Co-Workers." For example, if you are left out of the monthly planning meeting for the upcoming events in your department, ask your coworkers why they decided to change the meeting to Tuesday without notifying you. Their answers can help you gain a better understanding of their behavior and motives, says Dinkin. Remain non-confrontational and avoid showing frustration, anger or other emotion that may cause you to lose control of the situation.

One More Chance

Listen to your coworkers as they respond to you. You may feel slighted, while they didn't even realize they left you out of the meeting. To be sure everyone is on the same page, repeat what they said back to them. For example, "I'm hearing you say that there wasn't a mass email sent around regarding this. I was out of the office on Monday when the verbal announcement was made. No one realized I didn't know about it until I didn't show up for the early morning meeting on Tuesday." John Reed, executive director of the staffing company Robert Half Technology advises to give them the benefit of the doubt the first time and confront them if it happens again; it may be necessary to mention involving management at that point.

Attack Problems, Not People

Avoid personalizing the issues with your coworkers by taking the anger out of your statements, as this will increase your chances of being heard and resolving the issue on positive terms, according to Lee Jay Berman, Los Angeles-based mediator, in an article on "Mediate.com." If you are to blame, you can admit that, but avoid placing blame on your coworkers, as this can increase defensiveness and inhibit problem-solving and resolution. Brainstorm ways to resolve your issues together as a team. This encourages a supportive team environment and sets the stage to handle any future conflicts that may arise.

Last Resort

While you hope to resolve your conflicts amicably, there may be times when it is necessary to involve upper management. Often, in cases of workplace harassment that involve race, gender or age, your supervisor will be able to step in and resolve the issue. If direct attempts at mediation fail, a formal complaint may be necessary, according to David W. Ballard, psychologist and head of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. Everything should be documented in writing, including what occurred, when it occurred, how it impacted you, and what needs to be done to resolve the conflict.

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