Strategies for Workplace Conflict

Julie Shenkman
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Not everyone at the office sees eye to eye all of the time — and that's OK, because not everyone has the exact same personality. Just because people come from different backgrounds and have varying ideologies, it doesn't mean workplace conflict has to include full-blown arguments and disagreements. No one has to endure a shouting match over what kind of coffee to serve in the break room.

Workplace conflict happens in ways that aren't as obvious as heated arguments. Contention may manifest itself as differences of opinion, contrasting managing styles or fears regarding changes in routine. Administrative assistants in particular can have front-row seats to office showdowns. Learn some tricks and tips to manage the clash of personalities at the office so you can learn how to manage your work load easier and become a great collaborator.

The first aspect of dissipating any workplace conflict starts with listening. Take into consideration everyone's point of view before passing judgment on who has the best idea or who's right or wrong. There may not be an easy solution to the dilemma, but you cannot discern the answer without hearing about the problem first.

Communication is the key to resolving conflicts, especially for an office team. Everyone deserves to talk about his feelings openly and honestly, but it must be done with equal respect for each person's opinion. There's nothing wrong with venting, but it must be done calmly. You may find that someone's workplace conflict may not come from an office issue, and that employee has personal difficulties that cloud reason.

Help define the problem once you get everyone's emotions out of the equation. You may discover there is no problem and it's just a faulty perception or a miscommunication as opposed to a genuine disagreement.

Maintain a positive attitude by acknowledging other people's strengths. This serves the dual purpose of building up someone's self-esteem and making everyone realize that all ideas are valid. Noting a person's strengths avoids diminishing a coworker's professionalism and props up the office team. The company should realize that it succeeds when everyone flourishes as individuals.

Use workplace conflict as a way to show your own leadership skills. Take charge, become a problem solver, and catch the attention of your supervisor. Leading the way doesn't mean taking a heavy-handed approach. Try using your assertive nature to bring out the best in your co-workers. Your leadership touts your value to the company in a very real way.

Understand that you may need to vent later after serving as a referee for a disagreement. Take a 10-minute break for some coffee, go for a short walk, or talk to a friend who's outside the situation after work. It's important not to let your emotions burden you after you solve the problem.

Administrative assistants wear many hats, and a workplace conflict resolution specialist is one of them. Keep these tips in mind next time you hear someone moan about the type of paper stocked in the copy room or the brand of creamer next to the coffee pot.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at


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