How Rude! Managing Workplace Conflict.

So you think that your co-worker has it in for you; or that a particular colleague specifically wakes up each morning determining how to make your life more difficult? Well, fortunately… they are not that smart. The real issue boils down to communication (or lack of communication) and putting yourself in the shoes of the other person. 


75% of most conflict is petty and small. Someone forgot to replace copy paper in the copy machine, or talking too loud on the phone in the next cubicle, interrupting during meetings, gossip, taking the last cup of coffee from the coffee maker and not replenishing, eating a smelly lunch in a common area and the list goes on and on…..

The Issue.  Most people confuse personalities with issues, the conflict is not dealt with early on, and that most people do not stay to the facts when addressing the conflict.

Avoid addressing the personality and stay focused on the issue. “Sally didn’t put more copy paper in the copier, she’s stupid.” The fact is she failed to refill the copier. When personality comes into the framework of conflict it breeds more conflict. It will force the person to get defensive and justify they are “right” or “should” or disregard the actual offense.


Deal with the situation, immediately. Avoid letting the irritation or conflict build and build until you finally explode! Be sure to take the person aside, privately. Ask for a specific time and location to meet and indicate what you want to address, collect all the FACTS, and be prepared to control the meeting.

The biggest failure in addressing conflict is the ability to stay with the facts versus opinions: 

Step 1: State the facts of the situation. (“insert name of person, I went to use the copier, and I noticed you were the last person to make copies, and the copy paper tray was empty.”)

Step 2: State the impact it had on you and only you, not everyone in the office. Avoid generalities. (“When copy paper is not in the machine it disrupts my productivity and is frustrating.”)

Step 3: Respect their decision. ( “insert name of person, I can appreciate you are busy and may have overlooked using the last of the copy paper.”)

Step 4: Request an action. (“However, in the future would you please double check the supply before leaving the copy machine?”)

The above formula is useful in addressing conflict that is big or small it allows you to stay with the facts and avoids bringing personality issues into the conversation.

It is true, that some conflict may never be resolved but it can be managed. However, it is important to address the situation immediately to ensure the ability to move forward.  Avoid falling into the “passive aggressive”, trap.

The pitfalls of not dealing with conflict is costly! Lack of trust, lack of respect, impact on productivity, not feeling valued are just a few of the affects of poorly managed conflict in the workplace.  You can gain greater control and the ability to express yourself, honestly and respectfully, will lessen stress and anxiety when dealing with coworkers. 

Good luck!


4 thoughts on “How Rude! Managing Workplace Conflict.

  1. how to take precautions?


    1. Hasancaner,
      It is important to address issues early on and avoid bringing up other issues at the same time. Address one topic at a time. Empathetic listening is important. It is more than just “hearing” (sound traveling throught the eardrum). Listen to understand. Don’t force proof you are right. Make it “ok” for others to feel the way they do and offer other ideas, or suggestions. Use the formula in the article to guide you through the process when you come into a situation that requires attention. Thank you for your great question. DAT


  2. what if the same actions repeat? what to do next?


    1. It is important that if you see change in the person’s habits that you acknowledge them early on in the process (“I noticed that you ___________thank you for listening”. If you fail to do so, they will think you did not even notice and they will go back to old patterns.
      In addition, you can follow the process again, to remind them of your previous discussion to determine what stands in their way from accomplishing your request. Then allow them to suggest an alternative solution that you both agree upon that may be more achievable for the individual. It requires tolerance and compromise. Avoid being aggressive in your approach (I’m better than you) and be assertive (I have rights-you do to.)


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