Key Phrases that Resolve Workplace Conflict

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Choose your words carefully, as the choices you make have the power to ignite an inferno or damper a flame.

Employee #1 “YOU WERE SUPPOSE TO DO [insert task here]!” “I SENT YOU AN EMAIL TO DO IT. DIDN’T YOU READ MY EMAIL?”

Employee #2. “I DON’T HAVE TO DO WHAT YOU SAY; YOU ARE NOT MY MANGER AND I DON’T HAVE TO ANSWER TO YOU!”

The two employees’ argument echoed through the building. Employee #2 stormed outside to collect her thoughts, get some fresh air and calm down. Later she came back inside and apologized for raising her voice and the comments she made and why. In turn, the Employee #1 did the same and thus the issue was resolved and today I can honestly say, Employee #2 still adores and respects Employee #1 and still feels terrible for losing her cool and yelling back. She even wishes she could go back and have a redo on that conversation (But, we all makes mistakes, the key is to learn, apologize, move on and avoid making the same error).

I am happy to say that this is the only incident of its kind to date. How do I know? Because Employee #2 is me.

Unfortunately, this escalated argument arose due to prior, as well as, immediate communication and poor word choice.

In fact, some simple tweaks in verbiage and communication could have prevented this row altogether.

Have ever seen one of your co-workers get into a heated argument with their boss or another co-worker? It cannot only disrupt the workplace, but it can also negatively impact the function of a group or organization in the long run, effecting employee moral as well as a company’s bottom-line.

Trust me, you don’t want to get into a fiery argument at work. Especially, if you are working against deadlines in a high pressure work environment. The slightest bit of miscommunication can cause things to spin out of your control – and hurt your reputation or chances at moving-up into a management or leadership role.

Sure, if someone decides to express their anger, blame you for something, point their finger and yell in our face it’s easy to fight back – fight-or-flight is our natural defense mechanism. Just don’t do it!

During these times I am reminded of what Plato said that is a great reminder, “There are two things a person should never be angry at, what they can help, and what they cannot.”

Therefore, it is more beneficial to you in the long run to circumvent any potential conflicts.

Successful communicators practice rising above anger’s natural impulses.

They work to help others dissolve conflict and anger even if it is directed at them. The following are some phrases to start practicing to help you resolve anger and conflict at work

Phrases that De-escalate Workplace Conflict
Please, tell me more.

This phrase can avoid many petty or small misunderstandings. Rather than hearing just the surface of what someone’s issue or complaint is, hearing a little more than they usually expect can gain you some respect and empower the other person that initially had a problem/problem with you.

I understand what you’re saying.

Just acknowledging someone’s viewpoint is good for de-escalating a potential conflict or argument. This is key to a healthy debate and being able to hash things out with your fellow employee or boss. People who make an effort to listen to opposing views are seen as much more successful than those who are stubborn and try to do everything their way.

Tell me if this sounds reasonable.

When you open your opinions up for critique, rather than simply preaching what you have to say in a back and forth war of words, it makes it much easier to come to an agreement. Diplomacy is important in the workplace.

Let’s start at the beginning.

This is key for fanning any flames that may already have broken out before you’ve had the chance to even get a handle on what the conflict is all about. Many arguments over team projects or work duties are based on misunderstandings or assumptions. If you force the offended party to explain everything in detail, then you can avoid arguing over character judgments, allegations, and other things that lead to more conflicts down the road.

How do we ensure that this doesn’t happen again?

Wrapping up your conversations with a resolution is just as important as de-escalating the conflict itself. Otherwise, you’ll just end-up butting heads again. Use this opportunity to make peace and come to an understanding. Be the bigger person and offer a handshake or hug, even if you still secretly despise them. Don’t make your workplace a battleground.

Please help me understand.

When you are unable to say “I understand”, because you genuinely do not, kindly request the person to clarify their position. Remember to be humble, speak in a relaxed tone and try not to patronize the other person. Otherwise they won’t believe that you are trying to resolve the issue and are just trying to convince them why they’re wrong.

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Printout, write down and practice these helpful phrase and you’ll find they will come more naturally to you when you are in the line of fire or helping to put one out!

It’s more empowering to defuse a fight than win one!

Help Me:

I am currently researching workplace communication and I love to get feedback from “real” down in the trenches, people who may have faced this type or a similar situation. Please share any experience you have had in heated debate with a colleague and how you resolved the issue.

Post in the comments below or send me a private email: [email protected]

Thank you!


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