How To Overcome A Conflict At Work


I’m no stranger to conflict at work.

One day I was playing a friendly game of foosball. Something we did often

(yes, we had a foosball table in the office – see photo proof of me on the right).

Screen Shot 2015-06-13 at 6.18.14 PM

But this day was different.

As I was losing, I decided to use my secret weapon: psychological manipulation.

I’m not proud of it, but being fairly bad at foosball I tend to get into it.

I started bantering and barking. Semi-pushing the limit insults with the opposition. Friendly bantering I thought. Back and forth.

You know. Guys at a foosball table.

But then…..

The guy I was playing with freaked out and grabbed the ball right off the table, raised his first and moved in close to me.

I thought it was a job so I started laughing.

Then I realized. Oh crap. This is real! This dude is pissed!

Conflicts happen, on an everyday occurrence.

Especially in the public accounting setting where your co-workers have seen your face more than their entire family combined. People are a little more edgy and seem to snap a lot quicker than normal.

If you do get yourself caught up in a conflict, there are key steps you can take to come out of it on top with grudges left in the dust.

Here are 5 steps to overcome a conflict at work:

1) Schedule An In-Person Meeting With Your Boss To Discuss The Conflict

This is an absolute must. Your boss needs to hear what happened, from your perspective before office gossip starts floating around.

When an office conflict occurs, schedule a time to meet with your boss, in person. When you are in the meeting, explain what happened, where you feel things went wrong, and express interest in resolving the conflict, the best way possible.

Then, ask for advice from your boss. This will be a great opportunity for your boss to mentor you through the conflict and hopefully come out on top.

2) Bring Solutions To The Table, Not Just The Issues

When you are in the meeting with your boss, you need to come prepared with how you think the conflict should be resolved. Don’t just say “Well it’s her fault, so she should apologize.” It’s not time to play the blame game here.

Instead, focus on developing 2-3 solutions to the conflict and pitch them to your boss. Then request that they give their input and guide you to the best way to overcome the issues at hand.

3) Be The Bigger Person, Even If You Don’t Want Too

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the conflict and not see the bigger picture. If you were the one in the wrong, you need to reflect and decide what the best moves are to resolve it. Maybe the person is just looking for an “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong” apology from you. This could resolve in conflict in a 20 minute coffee date with them.

However, if you were not in the wrong, this is not an opportunity for you to put the person down and gossip. This conflict occurred and you need to evaluate why you were put in this situation in the first place. We you taunting your co-worker that caused him or her to snap? Did you say something rude that triggered a response from the individual? Figure out what you could have done better to resolve this conflict, even if you do not feel like you did something wrong.

There is always room for improvement in every situation. Just make sure you stop and reflect  so you do not fall into another similar conflict in the future. Just don’t let it drag, out of spite. This will make your workplace and overall attitude miserable for months. Trust me, I know.

4) Develop A Plan To Move Forward

You are going to have to move past this conflict, one way or another. You can choose to resolve the issue, hold on to the issue or leave the company all together. Regardless of your choice, you want to make sure you have a plan as to how you are going to proceed in the future.

As yourself this question: Will this conflict affect your professional career in a week, month or a year from now?

Develop a plan based off of your answer.

5) If Conflicts Still Occur, Request To Be Transferred To A New Team

If you have done steps 1-4, reflected and still are having conflicts with a co-worker or team, it might be time to move on. Learn about your options in the company. Whether or not you can be transferred to a different engagement team, or office location.

If there are no other options for you to take, remember that you can always decide to move on from the company if you continue to feel uncomfortable or inadequate. Just make sure you exercised all of the options available before you make the decision to jump ship.

Have you encountered a conflict at work? If so, tell your story in the comments and how you were able to overcome the conflict.