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How to Manage Conflict at Work: The Argument for Utilizing Emotional Intelligence

Pollack Peacebuilding by Jeremy Pollack

If you are, as they say, a left-brained person, you may find it difficult to manage conflict in the workplace when it springs up between employees. Your logic-leaning mind will look at the situation objectively and implement an immediate action plan to mitigate the troubles that are likely to get in the way of productivity and workplace morale. But as you navigate how to manage conflict at work, you may find that the logical brain and a step-by-step approach to harmony isn’t the only necessary ingredient.

How to Manage Conflict at Work

Learning how to manage conflict at work is necessary if you’re in a leadership position. But this doesn’t mean everyone is a natural at diffusing disputes between colleagues. In order to be effective, it is imperative that conflict management skills in the workplace include understanding the emotional component of conflict; the anger, the distrust, the betrayal, the projection, the vulnerability. A manager who doesn’t understand the emotions at hand will struggle to maintain peace in the workplace, so here are some ways to ramp up your emotional intelligence and improve your application of conflict management strategies used in the workplace.

Lead with Curiosity

When you approach conflict resolution from the outside of an argument, it’s important not to jump to conclusions. Lead with curiosity. In other words, don’t simply give orders or offer threats, instead ask questions and get to know what the underlying issue is. On the surface, the fight may be about the timing of teamwork in the face of a deadline, but the underlying story may be a lack of trust and feelings of being taken advantage of.

Show Interest

Sure there’s probably something much more important you need to be focusing on right now, but when you sit with each employee individually to get to know what they’re experiencing, don’t treat them as though they’re an inconvenience. Ongoing conflict will hurt your bottom line in the end, so recognize that learning how to resolve conflict between two employees effectively is actually important. Let your employees know you care and that you’re hearing them. This will help diffuse some of the residual emotional tension left behind.

Be Relatable

Find a way to relate to your employees and the quandary they find themselves in. This will require a degree of empathy which is incredibly important when learning how to manage conflict at work. Once you’ve found something personal that helps you relate to the situation, it could be helpful to share appropriately. An inappropriate way to disclose this information would be to make the whole conversation about you or to impose your strategies for success on anyone else. Simply use this as a way to connect with your employees and let them know that, while they may not see it now, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Suspend Your Biases

Perhaps you’re equally frustrated with a member of your team as the colleague they’ve been battling with. This doesn’t mean you should be taking sides. In fact, in order to effectively implement conflict management skills in the workplace, you have to remain neutral, no matter your instincts to pick a side. Employee conflict is sure to escalate if leadership appears to lean in favor of one party over the other.

If you’re struggling to lean into the uncertain terrain of conflict management, you’re not alone. Learning how to manage conflict at work and tap into your own emotional intelligence can be rather difficult. Contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today to get the support you need as you navigate this challenging situation, and gain skills you can apply over and over again.


Emma Hartman

Emma Hartman has a Bachelor’s degree in Writing and a background in content coordination, copyediting, and copywriting. Her skills in content development and management together with strong administrative coordination lead Pollack Peacebuilding’s critical initiative of developing and distributing important news, events, advice, and research in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. MORE >

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