Thrive in Conflict: 5 Strategies to Maintain a Positive Work Environment

Whether you’re a team supervisor or a C-suite executive, you’ve likely experienced the rewards and challenges of leadership. It’s a privilege to make important decisions and represent your employer, but at the same time, conflict can feel like a test of your skills and ability. Conflict, after all, can be difficult and sometimes uncomfortable to discuss at work. You, as a leader, have to remind your team that conflict can be healthy — with friction comes innovation and growth. 

Conflict can be challenging as it’s unavoidable. So how do you maintain and foster a positive work environment when addressing it? If you brush it under the rug, issues can lay stagnant and may even escalate. On the other hand, if you address it, your co-workers may not agree with your decision, creating some tension. Just remember, conflict management is more than a responsibility; it’s a key part of your job.

Here are five strategies to resolve conflict both adequately and effectively to maintain a positive work environment: 

  1. Don’t Let Emotions Drive Your Decisions  

As humans, it’s natural for us to go into “fight or flight” mode when dealing with a disagreement. When this happens, our sympathetic nervous system is triggered, which increases heart rate and breathing. Our body processes it as a threat, and we are not in the state to rationalize, which is key for resolving it. 

Remove yourself from the conflict, take deep breaths, and practice mindfulness to clear your head. By doing so, you’ll be able to think more clearly, and you’ll probably notice your response is different than it would have been if you hadn’t taken a moment to clear your mind. 

  1. Catch Conflict Before It Happens 

Conflict is inevitable, but you can seek out potential conflict and address it immediately. For instance, if you see your team is not clear on their roles and/or responsibilities, step in and make sure everyone is on the same page. Oftentimes, conflict arises when directions are not clear. 

Pair team members to check in and ensure everyone is on the same page. Communication is key here. 

  1. Talk to Both Parties Then Bring Them Together 

If you’re resolving conflict between two parties, talk to them separately and collectively in a neutral environment. Set rules and expectations when bringing them together to discuss, such as active listening and no interruptions when the other is speaking. Sometimes, the conflict will resolve just by having an open dialogue. 

However, if that’s not the case, you must negotiate a resolution. Oftentimes, both parties will not get their desired outcome, but you must find a middle ground or come up with a solution that’s best for your organization. Once you come to a conclusion, write clear steps on how to achieve it.

  1. Pick Your Battles 

We’ve established that conflict is inevitable, but not all conflict is worth putting energy toward. According to Harvard Business Review, you should rate the importance of an issue on a scale of 1 to 10, with ten being the most important. If it falls below a six, drop it. 

Sometimes, even if an issue is below a six, it may be worth tackling if you feel it could grow into a larger problem down the line. You should focus on the issues prohibiting your company and team from reaching its goals. 

  1. Monitor and Follow Up 

After you resolve a conflict, you must monitor it and follow up. There could still be tension between team members, or the issue may not be completely resolved from other points of view. You may have to adjust the solution to what you think is best. 

Not all sides will be happy with your decision, but you have to do what is right, not favorable.

Shift Your Mindset: Conflict Is A Positive Experience 

Build a workplace culture that thrives when in conflict. You don’t want your employees to feel like they cannot discuss a disagreement because it will create a “negative” work environment.

Conflict resolution should not be perceived as a negative responsibility. Great leaders view it as an opportunity to achieve company goals, strengthen team relationships, and foster innovation.