We all have a vested interest in reducing conflict within our teams. It not only makes for a better work environment, but more importantly, a toxic work environment can take a financial and emotional toll on the company.

Here are some guidelines on how to address conflicts withing your organization.

Types of interpersonal conflict:

  • Miscommunication (e.g., unclear expectations)
  • Personality clashes (e.g., bad attitudes or big egos)
  • Unaligned ideas (e.g., disagreement over assignments/process)
  • Personal issues (over e.g., pay, hours, projects)

Strategies for reducing conflict on your team:

 1. Tackle conflict early

If you see team members in conflict, do not wait for things to resolve on their own. Encourage people to act quickly and have a direct conversation before any issues or differences elevate.  Addressing conflict earlier will save time and energy.

 2. Reduce opportunity for misunderstanding

Be as clear as possible with instructions and expectations. First impressions set the stage for the work relationship in the future. Where possible, offer to talk on the phone or in person early so that clear communication channels are established before any conflict arises.

 3. Confirm alignment often and openly

If you sense disagreement / lack of understanding, open the floor for discussion with a question.  For example, “I sense that you’re not in full agreement, am I right?”  This will boost confidence and accountability.

4. Compensate for email’s limitations

Email or other forms of written communication can feel impersonal. It is also highly subjective.  Start written communication with positive feedback. By doing so, team members will likely be more receptive to areas that need improvement.

5. Step away from email entirely

When there is disagreement, pick up the phone, meet in person or get on a video conference instead of continuing to converse over email. Having eye contact, watching for non-verbal communication, and hearing each other’s tones of voice can tamp down negative assumptions. This can help resolve things faster, saving a lot of time and emotional energy.

6. “The golden rule”

Treat people the way you want to be treated. Review any written communication as if you were the recipient.  Use pleasant, positive language and keep your emotions in check. Assume good intentions rather than jumping to conclusions. Apologize when you make a mistake.

7. Get support if needed

You will have to deal with difficult people or situations.  There is no way around it. If you are unable to resolve a conflict, or are having a recurring issue, reach out for help.  Your manager or someone on your HR team can be great mediators in helping to find an alternative resolution.


Photo by Afif Ramdhasuma on Unsplash