3 Powerful Ways to Prevent Conflict at Work

Henry Cloud Leadership Blog 3 Ways to Prevent Conflict at Work

If you’re like most people, you spend a lot of your life at work. Work is a place with many possibilities for stress, conflict, risk, and loss.

It is a place where you put in the best of who you are. You are serving, and at times sacrificing, trying to please, and also establishing friendships on the teams with whom you work. So it naturally follows that you can experience some emotionally trying times there.

In addition, you have a job to do. Sometimes, in the course of doing your job, conflict arises. They may be between your colleagues or people you manage and supervise or your supervisors and bosses. Much rides on your ability to handle confrontation well. It may make a difference not only in how you feel on the job, but also whether your company or department performs well.

One of the best ways for a leader to manage conflict is to stop it before it turns into something big. Conflict will still happen, but the following three tips will help you lay the groundwork to prevent it.

1. Find Out What the Reality Is

Find out what the reality is regarding talking about things that come up. Once you find that out, you know better where you stand and have more freedom to proceed.

Usually these realities fall into a few categories. The first one is formal structure. Some things fall out of the realm of talking to your co-worker; they require a formal procedure. Your HR department or supervisor will be able to help you there. The second is a less formal structure is to ask your supervisor or co-worker how they would like to address issues together. Simply say, “I want to have the best working relationship that we can. How do you want us to talk about things when issues arise between us?”

Finding out what the rules are and how issues are faced give you more freedom within which to operate.

2. If You Supervise, Do It Along the Way

One of the toughest things a manager or supervisor has to do is bring up issues about someone’s performance. But this can also be one of the best parts about working together. People improve with feedback. Yet, sadly, managers often do not bring things up as they happen and then they have to confront in a big way later.

3. Share Your Feelings

What do you do when someone at work hurts you? I know what I wish people do with me: Let me know. That is the ideal way for things to happen—for people to talk to each other.
In the spirit of doing better work and accomplishing goals and tasks, resolve the issues that are making work difficult for you, such as things that are so hurtful you find it hard to do your job, or people’s performance and work styles. Along with your bosses and coworkers, make sure that your culture and workplace is one that builds people up and helps them do a better job together.

To get a job done, we have to solve problems and “face” things. To get along well, we have to work out relational issues with each other through facing things as well. So the entire arena of work requires good confrontation skills to work well. Confront well, and you will work better also.


This article was adapted from Dr. Henry Cloud's How to Have the Difficult Conversations You’ve Been Avoiding. Find the book that's right for you now.