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Conflict Resolution

Resolving Conflict Situations by Managing Emotions in the Workplace

There are always a number of elements in every workplace conflict situation. There are substantive “factual” or evidential issues which need to be addressed and there are also emotions associated with these issues.

Sometimes feelings need to be expressed

Although collaborative problem solving needs to be conducted in a rational and objective manner when dealing with the performance “gap” that has arisen (in a factual sense), both parties in a communication sometimes need to express their feelings about the conflict situation before they are ready to deal with it appropriately and move on to address the substantive issues in conflict with an agreed plan. As communication is a two-way process, it is also extremely important to allow the other party in a difficult situation to both describe their reasons for the gap and express their feelings (and respect these feelings).

Managing emotions by “reflecting back” feelings

One positive technique for managing emotions in a workplace conflict situation, where a perceived performance gap exists, is to reflect back the feelings that have been expressed by the other party. For example, if the other party says that they’re sick and tired of being victimized, the manager could reflect back their feelings by saying “You’re obviously frustrated by feelings of victimization but my goal is to be fair to everyone on the team-can we work together so we achieve that goal?”

Setting clear standards to avoid conflict

While emotions need to be aired, they shouldn’t be allowed to get out of hand and adversely affect the communication process. This can happen if a manager directs strong and negative emotions at the other person, and they retaliate by directing similar emotions at you. An effective manager will therefore seek to get the other party working with him or her. This is best done by sticking to the facts and describing the standards of performance which are expected. If this is done with positive body language and confidence (but not aggression) it helps to more quickly get the conversation back on track.

The featured video clip is a short excerpt from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder eLearning program, Conflict Resolution: An RSB eLearning Course.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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