Conflict in the workplace can infect the atmosphere, turning a pleasant environment into a poisoned space where employees take sides and tension is thick. When you encounter a conflict with a colleague or a manager, take steps to resolve it early before it escalates into a serious problem.
At the first sign of a conflict, attempt to resolve it informally, without involving a superior. Ask to have a meeting with the person or persons involved, letting them know in advance the reason you want to get together. Maintain a calm, professional and respectful demeanor, and take care not to throw insults or accusations. Ask about the other party's motivations and reasons and explain your own. Often, by approaching the situation without malice, you can diffuse tension or anger and come to a solution before it turns into a bigger problem.
Focus on Common Goals
Workplace conflict can be the result of differing perceptions. To realign your perception with that of the other person, focus on common goals, such as a shared client project or one of the company's strategic objectives. Talk though the things that are obstructing progress toward those goals, and come to a strategy that helps you get around the roadblocks. You may decide that you need to alter your strategy to allow the other person to do her job, or you may both discover that an attitude or communication style is getting in the way. By focusing on a positive, practical end goal, you can realign your behaviors and practices to end the conflict.
Occasionally, you will run into a person with whom you clash so seriously that it is impossible to work together. In this situation, speak to a superior and request that your responsibilities be reorganized to minimize contact with the person. Explain the problem, the steps you have taken to resolve the conflict and the reasons they have not been successful. By demonstrating that you have attempted to solve the problem, you can assure your boss that you are not acting on a whim or a grudge.
Bring in a Mediator
When conflict turns emotional, the affected parties may find it difficult to resolve the issues on their own. In this situation, bring in an objective mediator who can listen to both sides and suggest ways to get through the problem. Choose someone who does not have a stake in either side, and if possible, find a person from an outside source or who works at a higher level than the people involved in the conflict to lend authority. Have each party present his side -- separately, if necessary -- then come together for a mediated discussion to come up with a solution.