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Conflicts are inevitable in the workplace. What isn’t inevitable are the effects conflicts have on employee performance and morale — and ultimately the bottom line. These harmful outcomes can be prevented, however.

The art of managing conflicts continues to receive much attention from the business community. The goal is not so much to eliminate conflict but to mitigate the harm it will inflict on a company and its staff.

Whether minor disagreements escalate into something more serious depends a lot on what the company considers as permissible actions.

If conflict cannot be avoided, what is the next best thing to do?

Some studies suggest companies push their employees to take lessons in conflict management and conflict de-escalation. Companies can also encourage employees to avoid conflict altogether.

A win-win solution in employee-to-employee conflicts is to take actions that will nip conflict in the bud. In other words, prevention (and not avoidance) is the solution.

We start by remembering the two major causes of conflicts: miscommunication and frenzied emotions.

Stated simply, miscommunication involves Employee A thinking Employee B meant one thing, when Employee B actually meant something else. The latter sees Employee B react to Employee A’s mistaken assumption by going off the deep end with an emotional tirade. Then, Employee A loses it, too.

About half of all workplace conflicts can be attributed to personality clashes like these.

Here are three tactics that should prove useful in the quest to diffuse conflicts before they ignite:

1. Be aware of the personality of the person you’re dealing with. This requires forethought and a non-judgmental attitude, especially if any animosity exists between both parties.

It especially requires that you respect the person’s views and criticize his actions, and not his personality. Becoming aware of the lines a person will and will not cross will ensure you neither transgress those lines nor appear to do so.

2. Communicate respectfully. The Golden Rule or the “Law of Reciprocity” can serve as your guide. Remember to “Do unto others as you want others to do unto you,” especially when you talk to or communicate with other people (including emails or text messages).

The Golden Rule also extends to treating people as you would like to be treated by them. In the corporate environment, this means asking for cooperation instead of pushing others around.

This also means avoiding gossip and backbiting, which are among the two most common causes of workplace conflicts. Always remember that miscommunication can lead to conflicts.

3. Pay attention to minor disagreements. Many of us know someone who flew into an unexpected rage over an innocuous comment, or even something far less trivial.

Making mountains out of molehills will always be part of the human condition, and so will its consequences. But there are ways to prevent things from getting out of hand.

Be attentive and take action to diffuse a minor disagreement with the potential to erupt into something far worse later on.

If you want to know more about how you can manage conflicts in the workplace, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to send me an email at I welcome the opportunity to discuss how I can help you.

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Inscape Consulting Group
Greg Nichvalodoff, BSc. BM (Honors), MBA, PCC, CMC
Office: 604.943.0800
Mobile: 604.831.4734