How to Confront Problems In The Workplace

Whenever you have a group of people spending extended periods of time together, there is bound to be some conflict that creeps in. Whenever workplace conflict arises, it is important to address it as soon as possible to avoid harming your mental and emotional health and of others, directly and indirectly, involved. Workplace cohesion and harmony can be badly affected and even impact the performance of the organization. 

Some of the worst ways to address workplace conflict include avoidance, poor communication, emotional decision making, and righteousness. The best solution lies in accepting that there is an issue that needs addressing and pursuing a conflict resolution process to handle it. 

Learn Acceptable/Unacceptable Behaviour

Every employee should have clearly defined roles with a good understanding of what is expected of them. They should also be made aware of the chain of command when it comes to various issues so there is effective communication. They also need to understand what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in the workplace. This should be made part of orientation and ongoing job training and development. It should also be included in any employee handbook or HR policy manual. As the employee, you will then know when to make a report when you know you are being treated inappropriately. 

Act Immediately

In many cases, conflict can be stopped before it starts. Those in leadership roles need to be observant and take a proactive role in handling such problems. Addressing any problem early on in a decisive manner can help minimize potential problems and ensure a more comfortable work environment for all. Be attuned to negative emotions and seek to find out the source and deescalate. Employees should seek advice and intervention early on as well for faster resolution. 

Be Direct

Discussing the problem with the other party may be helpful when it comes to minor issues. An informal discussion to start is often acceptable to see how they react. If the response is poor, then you can choose to escalate the issue. When making first contact, be respectful and avoid placing blame on the other party. Be open-minded and keep cool. Use “I” statements to express your concerns without being confrontational. Give the other party a chance to respond and try to empathise, reasonably. Ask open-ended questions that will help get you both to a mutually acceptable solution. 


If you realise there could be a pattern of behaviours being developed, take time to document your interactions with the said other party. Note down all the incidents, what was said and done, where it happened, at what time, and if there were witnesses. Depending on the kind of organisation you work for, this can often help if you need to escalate the issue or even have to seek legal redress. 


After you have made an effort on a personal level to address the problem with a poor result, it is time to escalate, whether formally or informally. If your supervisor, who you would normally make the report to is the problem, then go to HR. They should be able to investigate and follow the established conflict resolution guidelines. Be aware that there may be other viable viewpoints to the issue and that the outcome may not be what you expected. Again, be open-minded so you can reach a mutually acceptable resolution, where possible. 

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