Staying out of conflict in the workplace


Gone are the days of stability and predictability – the world around us is in a constant state of flux, with rules sometimes changing on us every day of the week. Many of us are managing much higher levels of stress, and the rules need to be negotiated sometimes on a daily basis, both at home and in the workplace. As many of us return to workplace environments after prolonged periods of isolation and working from home, harmony in the workplace will be top of mind again for employers. How can you stay out of work conflict?

Here are my top three tips on how to make sure you can stay in control and out of trouble.

1. Be clear on your boundaries

You do not have to share how you feel about everything! If the topic being discussed isn’t relevant to your job, consider pulling back if you feel the conversation is encroaching on territory that may make you feel uncomfortable. For example, someone may ask you about your vaccination status, your political leanings or even workplace policies. Take an assertive but positive approach, “Hey, I enjoy chatting with you at work and appreciate our relationship as colleagues, but I don’t want to discuss contentious subjects at work at the moment, I hope that’s okay with you?” Most people should respect your position, and you’ll avoid unnecessary conflict and stress.

2. Don’t be afraid to negotiate

Even though many of us are working from home or in hybrid formats, workplace gossip is still a very real issue, and employees need to feel confident in raising issues directly with their managers or employers, rather than contributing to potentially damaging gossip. Set up a time to talk so you can ensure they have time to listen and aren’t distracted. Again, the direct but positive approach works best, “I wanted to raise this because I love working here and I would like to stay here for years to come, however, there are a few things that are not working well for me at the moment. I’d rather raise it directly with you as I’m keen to maintain a great workplace, rather than contributing to workplace gossip in any way”. Taking responsibility for your actions, whether that be proactively or after the fact if you’ve behaved in a less than ideal way, will always work in your favour.

3. Ask for clarification

If you are not clear on what is expected, you need to ask. It sounds simple but so often due to aversion to conflict, things are left unsaid which can be even more damaging in the long run. Running on assumptions in the workplace is dangerous, and most of the time the expectations and assumptions do not match which can cause conflict. Clarity is key to avoiding conflict. For example, “I’d like to clarify what you are asking of me. It is my understanding that this is what is expected, but I am not sure, and I want to make sure we are on the same page”. Communicating kindly yet assertively will go a long way to avoiding unnecessary confusion and conflict with your co-workers, peers and management.