6 Principles to Guide Your Approach to Conflict Management

Published: Dec 05, 2017
Modified: May 27, 2020


Conflict in the workplace occurs when people have different perspectives, needs, demands, and goals. To deal with these differences, managers need an effective approach to conflict management.

With any conflict you face, one essential is to consider how your actions may affect the relationship and impact the results you want to achieve. The AMA course Responding to Conflict: Strategies for Improved Communication provides the following guidance for considering your actions.

Strategies for conflict management

When you encounter difficult situations, it’s helpful to remove your emotions and think strategically about how to resolve the conflict—or not. Here are six suggestions from the AMA course:

You do not have to win all the time. If the outcome of your conflict is of low importance to you, you can build goodwill by letting others know that you’re willingly yielding to their request.

Not all things get better with age. If the outcome you seek is of high importance and you have the power or influence to obtain it, avoiding the conflict is a poor strategy. Don’t let it fester.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Some conflicts are not worth your time and attention. If the outcome and the relationship with the person are of low importance, do not take the bait to fight with someone who opposes you. Walk away!

Maybe you should split the difference. Suppose that you have a prolonged conflict with a peer about an operational issue. She is as powerful and influential as you are. You’ve tried collaborating with her, and when that did not work, you tried to force the result by leveraging some of your power or position. Neither approach has worked. Instead of getting frustrated, try a cease-fire. Suggest a middle approach where you both give a little.

You are not a doormat. Your employees are not following your instructions. Your peers are taking actions that harm your unit. Senior management often makes changes in your area without speaking with you beforehand. Maybe you need to stand up more for your unit and for yourself. Perhaps you have been too easygoing. Be sure to plan your interaction about a conflict so that you can handle it in an effective way.

Leave well enough alone. You may be facing an organizational conflict that you are ill-equipped to win. You may have little power to realize the outcome you seek. You may also do irreparable damage to your career. Let this sleeping dog continue his nap.

Managing conflicts to keep relationships positive

Your approach to conflict management can have a significant impact on your relationships at work. To help maintain positive relationships, keep your actions and reactions to conflict as neutral as possible. Assess the benefits and drawbacks of addressing a difficult situation, and then approach any issue you need to resolve with the strategic intent to achieve a positive outcome.