9 Steps for Dealing with Peer Conflict

February 18, 2019

During your career, there will definitely be moments when you are at odds with a coworker. The last thing you want is for the problem to affect your performance. Here are some important steps to take to deal with peer conflicts:

Decide whether the issue is worth addressing. If you’re upset about a one-time incident or have a basic personality clash with another employee, you may want to let it go. It’s best to save one-on-one discussions for frequently occurring problems. These problems should directly affect your ability to deliver on your objectives.

Ask to privately speak with the person. If you decide you need to pursue an issue, the last thing you want is a public blow-up. Find a convenient time to approach the person and ask if you can talk in private. Be sure to tell your coworker that you need to talk about a work-related issue.

Stay calm. As difficult as this might seem, it is critical to stay calm when dealing with a conflict. Try to take deep breaths. Mentally repeat the word “breathe” to yourself if it will help you.

Be mindful of your tone and posture. If you can sit down to have the conversation, do it. If you have to stand, remember to respect the personal space of your coworker. Stand a short distance away and keep your arms at your sides. Body language experts point out that crossed arms are defensive. Pointing your finger is viewed as threatening. Try to speak slowly and resist the temptation to raise your voice, even if the other person does so.

Use “we” when discussing the problem. Using plural pronouns such as “we” and “our” as opposed to “I” and “you” will prevent the other person from feeling accused. Here’s an example: “It seems like we have an issue in regards to our deadlines. Is there something we could do to improve our communication?” This will go over better than saying, “Why are you always late giving me the work you owe me?”

Clarify what the person wants. You have to remember that conflict resolution isn’t about you winning and the other person losing. It’s about finding a solution that satisfies both of you. The solution should also result in you both being able to better perform your jobs. Your coworker needs to have his or her point of view understood. Repeat what you believe are the person’s needs and get confirmation. For example, “Am I correct that it would help if I emailed you a list of due dates instead of calling you with them?”

Be respectful. It doesn’t matter who’s been with the company longer or who has more clients in his or her portfolio. You and your coworker need to enter into a conflict as equals. When in conversation, speak to your coworker with the same level of respect you would use when speaking with your manager.

Stay on topic. A conflict may seem like the perfect opportunity to air a list of grievances. However, you’re looking to put a stop to problems, not add more fuel to the fire. Stick to the main reason you’re having the conversation.

Give the person time to respond. Whenever you’re trying to resolve a conflict, you want to listen more than you talk. Do everything possible to prevent yourself from commenting while your coworker responds. Let him or her complete a thought, pause, and then respond.

Once you’ve discussed the issue with a coworker, try to take a little time to let things cool off. If you keep your cool, mind your tone and treat the other person with respect, you’ll be on your way to resolving your differences and both of you can move on.


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