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How to Best Settle Disagreements With Co-workers

by Erin Schreiner, studioD

For optimal productivity, workplaces should be harmonious, not rich in discord. When disagreements in the workplace are ignored, they can grow and get in the way of day-to-day business operations. Instead of allowing a simple disagreement to fester, tackle it head on to increase the speed with which everyone resolves their conflict and return to their focused, productive ways.

Pick Appropriate Battles

While you shouldn’t ignore conflict, not all disagreements are major enough to require intervention. If you are a player in the conflict, consider letting minor incidents that have already taken place remain a thing of the past instead of rehashing them. If you are a manager considering stepping in between conflicting co-workers, critically evaluate the conflict's severity, recommends Steven Menack a professional mediator quoted in a CNN.com article. Minor, one-time disagreements often work themselves out without intervention. If the disagreement is chronic and continuous, however, it is worth tending to.

Set a Meeting

Co-workers need a time and place to discuss their issues to effectively resolve them. Set up a meeting between the feuding co-workers in a neutral location, such as a shared meeting room. If you are one of the feuders, set up the meeting yourself, making it clear to your partner in conflict that the purpose of this meeting is to resolve the disagreement. Allot several hours for this meeting to ensure that the meeting isn't rushed and to allow for as much time as necessary to resolve the issue.

Establish Ground Rules

Conflict-resolution meetings can quickly deteriorate into sessions of bickering if there aren't ground rules. Regardless of whether you are one of the conflict-participants or an intermediary, you should start this meeting by laying out these rules. Tell the fighting duo -- or the person with whom you are fighting -- that they will take turns talking and not interrupt each other. Also, ask them to speak in the first person. When they speak in the first person, it is more difficult for them to point fingers or place blame, reminds Taylor Coulter Professional People Solutions, an IT and staffing firm based in Australia.

Keep it Non-Confrontational

If you are not a participant in the conflict, stay neutral. When the two co-workers speak, act exclusively as an intermediary, monitoring to ensure that they both follow the ground rules but not taking a stance yourself. If you take a side, you will escalate the issue you are trying to resolve, warns Mark Schnurman for “The Star-Ledger.” If you are a participant in the conflict, prevent confrontation by keeping your voice calm and focusing on resolution, not blame-placing.

Choose a Solution

Conclude the discussion with the development of a sustainable solution. If necessary, ask prompting questions such as, “How can we prevent this from being an issue in the future?” or, “What can we do differently, moving forward?” Once the co-workers have arrived at a solution, help them implement it -- or, if you are a member of the conflict, commit to implementing the solution with fidelity.

About the Author

Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.

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