How to Deal With Conflict at Work Without Destroying Your Relationships

No matter how nice you are you will occasionally run into conflict at work.  That’s just the way it is.  This article does a great job of laying out eight tips for managing conflict in the workplace.

I devote several tweets in my career mentor book Success Tweets to managing conflict.  I think it’s that important.  Tweet 133 says, “Resolve conflict positively. Treat conflict as an opportunity to strengthen, not destroy, the relationships you’ve worked hard to build.”

Successful people resolve conflict in a positive manner. No matter how interpersonally competent, or how easy-going you are, you will inevitably find yourself in conflict. People will not always agree with you, and you will not always agree with others.

I know a little bit about conflict resolution. It was the topic of my dissertation at Harvard. Way back in the 1970’s, Ken Thomas and Ralph Kilmann developed an instrument to measure a person’s tendencies when in a conflict situation.

They came up with five predominant conflict styles: Competing, Collaborating, Compromising, Accommodating and Avoiding. Their research suggests that all five are appropriate depending on the situation.

As a career mentor however, I have found that the Collaborating style is the best default mode. When you collaborate with others to resolve conflict, you focus on meeting both your needs and the needs of the other person. I like this style because it helps you bring together a variety of viewpoints to get the best solution.

When you collaborate, neither you nor the other person is likely to feel as if he or she won or lost. Also, collaborating with the person or persons with whom you are in conflict creates the opportunity for you to work together to build a solution that best addresses everyone’s concerns.

Successful people are adept at resolving conflict in a positive manner. Collaboration is the best choice of the five most common handling styles. When you collaborate with others – especially those with whom you are in conflict – you not only are likely to resolve your conflict in a positive manner, you will strengthen your relationship with the other person. It’s a win-win.

When I work collaboratively with someone, I focus on our similarities, not our differences. This creates a bond that not only helps us get through our conflict, but helps us strengthen our relationship, and strong relationships lead to career success.  At first this may seem to be counter-intuitive. By definition, conflict is a state of disagreement. When I’m in conflict with someone, however, instead of focusing on where we disagree, I focus on where we agree.

This is a great way to not only resolve conflict positively, it helps strengthen relationships. And, as we all know, conflict often leads to a deterioration of relationships. So to me this approach is a no-brainer. First, you get to resolve conflict positively. Second, you strengthen your relationships. Third, you improve your chances of becoming a life and career success.

I look for any small point of agreement and then try to build on it. I find that it is easier to reach a larger agreement when I build from a point of small agreement, rather than attempting to tear down the other person’s points with which I don’t agree.

Most people don’t do this. They get caught up in proving their point. They hold on to it more strongly when someone else attacks it. If you turn around the discussion and say, “Let’s focus where we agree, and see if we can build something from there,” you are making the situation less personal. Now the two of you are working together to figure out a mutually agreeable solution to your disagreement. You’re not tearing down one another’s arguments just to get your way. Try this. It works.

Follow the career advice in Tweet 133 in Success Tweets. “Resolve conflict positively. Treat conflict as an opportunity to strengthen, not destroy, the relationships you’ve worked hard to build.” Conflict can destroy relationships – and it can strengthen them. When you find yourself in conflict with another person, choose to see it as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with them. The career advice here is simple. Resolve conflict by acting in a positive, proactive and assertive manner.

Your career mentor,


PS: You can join thousands of other success minded professionals who have downloaded Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  Just go to and enter your contact information.  When you download these two books, I’ll give you a free basic membership in my career mentoring site and begin sending you daily motivational quotes.


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  1. Brian Otieno says:

    I like this idea so much.

  2. Thanks for your feedback, Brian.

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