How To Handle Conflict In The Workplace


Once upon a time, a mullah (a Muslim religious leader) was on his way by camel to the holy city of Mecca. Coming to an oasis he saw three men standing there, crying. So he stopped the camel and asked, "My children, what is the matter?" And they answered, "Our father just passed away, and we loved him so much." "But," said the mullah, "I am sure he loved you too, and no doubt he has left something behind for you?"

The three men answered, "Yes, he did indeed. He left behind 17camels. And in his will, it is stated 1/2 to the eldest son, 1/3 to the second and 1/9 to the youngest. We love camels, we agree with the parts to each. Loving camels we cannot divide them. "The mullah thought for a while, and then said, "I can give you my camel; then you have 18."

And they started to protest: "No, you cannot do that, you are on your way to something important." The mullah interrupted them, "My children, take the camel, go ahead."

So they divided the camels according to the father's instructions:

18 divided by 2 = 9, so the eldest son got 9 camels.

18 divided by 3 = 6, so the second son got 6 camels.

18 divided by 9 = 2, so the youngest son got 2 camels.

Thus the three sons got 9 + 6 + 2 = 17 camels in all.

One camel remained standing alone: the mullah's camel.

The mullah said: "Are you happy? Well, then, maybe I can get my camel back?"

And the three men, full of gratitude, said, "Of course," not quite understanding what had happened. The mullah blessed them, mounted his camel, and the last they saw was a tiny cloud of dust, quickly settling in the glowing evening sun.

Now review the story and list the steps the mullah used to help the brothers resolve their conflict: This story sounds like a lot of difficult negotiations which we face in everyday life which seemingly has no solutions.

Story Bushmen of South Africa

The Bushmen tribe of S Africa are one of the most ancient tribes who use poisonous arrows. Now they too have differences. Let's see how do they resolve their issue. When temper rises, someone hides all poisonous arrows.They sit in a circle for days to talk and find a solution. If tempers still rise, the person is sent to relatives place for some days to cool off.


How do we help? By reminding them what is at stake. Help the parties to pause and think of a better result which will make good in the long run.


Friction - 

Sometimes friction forms between opposing personalities or even the closest of co-workers and that destructive behavior can lead to disagreement, argument or conflict.Mounting tensions lead to irreparable harm in the form of hurt feelings, lost talent and productivity…or worse, lawsuits and workplace violence.

Don't fear conflict; embrace it-it's your job.

While you can try and avoid conflict (bad idea), you cannot escape conflict. The ability to recognize the conflict, understand the nature of a conflict, and to be able to bring swift and just resolution to a conflict will serve you well as a leader.

Most conflicts could have been resolved in the earliest stages if the people involved applied some of the skills that mediators use to resolve a conflictAnd wouldn't it be great if companies could resolve these disputes before each side spent hundreds of thousands in litigation costs, before the employee was terminated or before the customer or working relationship was gone forever?


So, what creates conflict in the workplace?

Power struggles, ego, pride, jealousy, performance discrepancies, compensation issues, opposing positions, competitive tensions, just someone having a bad day, etc.

The root of most conflict is either born out of poor communication or the inability to control one's emotions.

Let's examine these 2 major causes of conflict:


If you reflect back upon conflicts you have encountered over the years, you'll quickly recognize many of them resulted from a lack of information, poor information, no information, or misinformation.

Clear, concise, accurate, and timely communication of information will help to ease both the number and severity of conflicts.


Another common mistake made in workplace communications which lead to conflict

Is letting emotions drive decisionsI have witnessed otherwise savvy executives place the need for emotional superiority ahead of achieving their mission (not that they always understood this at the time).

Most of us stop listening to understand as we get angry. Instead, we start listening in order to argue back. Remaining calm is essential for performing these tools. To remain calm, it helps to look at the big picture. If you think about it, most every dispute gets resolved eventually. So when conflict inevitably happens, it is helpful to stop and think that, chances are, it is going to be resolved eventually. As such, why not begin problem-solving now?

Listen to Understand.

The only way to settle a dispute or solve any kind of a problem is to listen carefully to what the other person is saying.

Perhaps they will surprise you with reason, or their point is actually true.

In the mediations that I do, I often learn what people's underlying interests are by letting them go on and on telling their perspective of an issue until they give me the one thing that is standing in the way of them resolving it.


Define Acceptable Behavior:

What constitutes acceptable behavior is a positive step in avoiding conflict in any organization.

Creating a framework for decision, using a published delegation of authority statement.

Having clearly defined job descriptions so that people know what's expected of them.

A well-articulated chain of command to allow for effective communication will also help avoid conflicts.

Clearly and publicly make it known what will and won't be tolerated.

Team building, leadership development, and talent management will all help avoid conflicts.

Team building, leadership development, and talent management will all help avoid conflicts.

While you can't always prevent conflicts, it has been my experience that the secret to conflict resolution is in fact conflict prevention where possible.

By actually seeking out areas of potential conflict and proactively intervening in a just and decisive fashion you will likely prevent certain conflicts from ever arising.

If a conflict does flare up, you will likely minimize its severity by dealing with it quickly.

Time spent identifying and understanding natural tensions will help to avoid unnecessary conflict.

Improve Your Nonverbal Communication skills

The most important information exchanged during conflicts and arguments often communicate nonverbally.

Nonverbal communication includes eye contact,facial expressions,tone of voice,posture,touch,and gestures.

Simply nonverbal signals such as a calm tone of voice are reassuring touch or a concerned facial expression can go along way toward defusing a heated exchange.

Use Humor And Play To Deal With Challenges

You can avoid many confrontations and resolve arguments and disagreements by communicating in a playful or humorous way.

Humor can help you say things that might otherwise be difficult to express without creating a flap.

When humor and play are used to reduce tension and anger, reframe problems, and put the situation into perspective, the conflict can actually become an opportunity for greater connection and intimacy.

View Conflict as Opportunity

Hidden within virtually every conflict is the potential for a tremendous teaching/learning opportunity.

Where there is disagreement there is an inherent potential for growth and development.

If you're a CEO who doesn't leverage conflict for team building and leadership development purposes you're missing a great opportunity.

Divergent positions addressed properly can stimulate innovation and be learning in ways like minds can't even imagine.


Smart leaders look for the upside in all differing opinions.

I believe resolution can normally be found in conflicts where there is a sincere desire to do so.

Turning the other cheek, compromise, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, finding common ground, being an active listener, service above self, and numerous other approaches will always allow one to be successful in building rapport if the underlying desire is strong enough.

However, when all else fails and positional gaps cannot be closed, resolve the issue not by playing favorites, but by doing the right thing.


the event.playA truck driver enters the plant and does not listen to the security guard regarding proper parking. Role

Role Play- 2 persons act as HOD of 2 depts. There is a breakdown, they start blaming each other. Finally, after an argument, they may come to a conclusion or a 3rd person intervenes to solve it.




Leave a Comment

* identifies mandatory field