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How to Resolve a Conflict with a Co-Worker

Six men in shirt and tie with pulled sleaves playing tug-o-war to illustrate ways to resolve conflicts

It’s not always easy going into work when there are unresolved issues with your fellow co-workers. It produces anxiety, distrust, and unnecessary complications during high intensity projects or deadlines. The foundation of any successful company is trust. If there is no environment of trust, it is inevitable that those in the company will betray one another or the company. So what do you do when there is unresolved conflict? Here are some steps.

STEP ONE: Think back to how this all happened. Take out a sheet of paper and jot down conversations or thoughts. Do not merely assume that it was entirely your coworker’s fault. How might have you contributed to the conflict? Being passive during moments when your coworker was being unreasonable was still a decision you chose to make. Once you backtrack and try to see the whole picture, it will be easier for you to have a fair conversation.

STEP TWO: Try to talk to your coworker when they are in a calm mood. Picking a time where there is a company deadline is not the smartest move. Instead, try scheduling a lunch or a coffee break, if possible. There’s something about food that always brings people together. If they don’t want to talk with you, you need to be patient with them and not show any traces of anger or frustration. Instead, ask at another time with a sense of urgency over how their input will be valuable to you.

STEP THREE: Use the sandwich approach. This is where you first load on the accomplishments this person has made or something positive they bring to the table. Unless they are an absolutely horrible person, chances are that they probably have at least one positive trait that is worth admiring. After you’ve finished praising them, it’s time to address what could be improved. This is where the meat of the conflict is exposed. Never use an accusatory tone or words. Extreme words like, “never,” “always,” and a sarcastic tone will not get you anywhere. Watch for your body language, as this is 80% of communication. After you shared your thoughts, support them with encouragement and ask them for their thoughts. Leaving the discussion open-ended gives them an opportunity to be heard. This is very important to create a constructive environment.

If you came to a resolution, congratulations! If there is still conflict, the next steps may be to talk with your supervisor. Start off the conversation about your desire to do the best in the company. Be careful, however, to never show your co-worker in a negative light. Present the problems as you see them and express how you would like the environment to be more positive, and continually reinforce that you want the best for the company.

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