Published on January 28, 2021

The Most Effective Strategy To Resolve Conflict At Work

The Most Effective Strategy To Resolve Conflict At Work

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there—and by “there,” I’m talking about being in an uncomfortable situation at work. Whether you’re smack dab in the middle of it or on the sidelines watching it unfold, it’s rarely easy to manage. That is, of course, until now! That’s because after over two decades of working in different departments for large organizations—and now running my own company—I’ve been exposed to my fair share of workplace conflicts, and I’ve learned the most effective strategy to resolve them effectively (but not without my own fair share of mistakes!).

Let’s start by talking about a few of the reasons why workplace conflict exists. It could be because you work in a highly competitive environment. Competition brings out the worst in us sometimes because we all want to win. So, if you work in a place (especially in sales) that ranks success based on performance, it’s super easy for conflict to arise.

Maybe you work in a place where you have blatant favoritism going on.[1] I’ve seen this scenario unfold a few times in my career. An example is when a manager assigns their favorite person or people the best performing accounts and gives the underperforming accounts to other team members, therefore, stacking the odds against some people. Unless it’s resolved in a way that benefits everyone, it can go horribly wrong.

Finally, you could be in a workplace situation that is unstable—especially right now in the current climate. Lots of companies are streamlining operations to be able to keep the doors open, simply knowing that information can cause stress and overwhelm employees, making the environment difficult to manage.

The good news here is that none of the above scenarios are impossible to fix. In fact, if you’ve got tools and resources to address them, you may even be able to head them off at the pass. That’s what good leadership is all about. Being able to “read the room” and anticipate situations are helpful traits to have when you’re the one possibly having to address and resolve the conflict.

Leaders are not just heads of companies, CEOs, or people in supervisory roles. We all have leadership qualities and responsibilities in our own lives. Whether it’s being the head of your household or a team member at work—each of us has a responsibility to step up and be a leader in different situations. When we’re talking about resolving conflict at work and you have a strategy to resolve or help fix it, consider yourself a leader.


Let’s just say you have a conflict at work, and you want to know the best way to approach it to find an amicable resolution. I’ve got an idea for you.

Here is a 3-step strategy to resolve conflict at work.

Step 1: Identify the Problem

What’s the actual issue? There are multiple sides to every story based on the number of people involved in the situation. The first thing you need to do is get to the bottom of the problem. Uncovering the root cause of the issue is your main goal during this phase.

Put on your investigator hat and do some digging. Look through your email to see if you can pinpoint a problem. If you’ve been documenting the issue, revisit your notes, and ask your peers for their observations. You won’t be able to resolve the conflict without the whole puzzle being put together. It might take a little time, but it’s better to have all the information (facts). this way you can come to an educated resolution.

Pro tip: while you’re in this phase, make sure you’re reviewing all of the information you’re receiving with an open mind. Try your best to not form any solid opinions until you have all the information you need. It’s not easy to keep emotions out of situations, especially if you’re directly involved. So, do your best to keep it professional and under wraps. If too many people catch wind of what you’re up to, they might want to join in on a discussion they aren’t a direct part of.

Once you feel like you’ve got your information gathered, create a timeline or outline of the events that caused the conflict. This way, when you move on to step number two, you’re ready with your data.


Step 2: Communicate

Communication is an art form. Being a good communicator takes work and commitment to continue learning. Communication is not just about talking, it’s also about body language, listening, and how you present yourself through your online tools such as email and social media.

Anyone can talk—but how many of us can truly listen and observe?

One of the first things we want to do when we find ourselves in a conflict situation is to immediately react. We want to say all the things or fire off an email that’s full of accusations and defense. That’s one of the worst things you can do—not only because words are important and can be hurtful but because by reacting, you haven’t had the time to consider the entire situation.

It’s best to step away from doing something you may regret later. That’s why when you’re in the communication phase of conflict resolution, your response to statements and situations should be thoughtful and professional.

A lot of disagreements can be resolved more smoothly simply by the way the issue is addressed. Communicating effectively to your peers and teams is a sign of strong leadership.

When the time comes for you to address the data and information you gathered while identifying the problem, bring your level head, open mind, and thoughtful heart to the conversation. Explain your observations or your own experience of the situation in a way that is straightforward, concise, and informational.


Allow others to do the same and really listen to what they are saying. When you take the time to listen, you may be able to uncover additional information. Effective communication is a key strategy in resolving conflict work.

Pro tip: A thoughtful response goes longer than an angry reaction. As the saying goes, “you catch a lot more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”

After you’ve had your thorough discussions with the involved parties and everyone has had an opportunity to express themselves, it’s time to move on and resolve the conflict.

Step 3: Resolve It!

It probably won’t happen overnight, but it can happen if you can find a way to agree and move past the situation. It’s not always easy to do, but it’s not impossible.

Think of a time when you’ve been able to successfully overcome a conflict in your life—what did it take to get to a resolution?

Sometimes, a handshake is enough to fix the problem. But if it’s bigger than that, it requires a plan. Working together with your peers to create a goal-oriented resolution is one of the best ways to stay on task, focused, and organized.


Remember when you were a little kid and your mom made you apologize on the playground after you had an altercation with a friend? Well, this is similar. Begin every resolution with an acknowledgment of your involvement and an apology (even if you think it’s not warranted).

I can’t tell you how much smoother the resolution process goes when you have the ability to forgive and forget it. Release the anger, find the learning opportunity, express gratitude for the growth, and apologize for your part. Doing all of those things is really putting on your big people pants and showing your peers that you’re willing to move forward.

When you work together to take action, you ultimately have a clean slate in front of you with a lot of opportunities to create change. If you’re in an environment that has antiquated systems, policies, and procedures, it could be a good time to revisit those things and create new ones.

Pro tip: Not all conflicts are bad, and most can be resolved with some good old-fashioned teamwork and commitment to success.

Final Thoughts

It’s not easy resolving conflict, especially when you feel like you’re the one getting the short end of the stick. But trust me, when you approach the situation using this strategy to resolve conflict at work, you will have the ability to look at conflicts from different perspectives, which ultimately results in personal and professional growth.

More Articles About Strategies to Resolve Conflict at Work

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Krista Rizzo, CPC

Transformational Life Coach, TEDx Speaker, Author & Founder

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.


Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.


Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.


Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.


This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.


Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

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