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How to Manage Conflict
By Gregory P. Smith, President, Chart Your Course International

Do you have people in your office that dislike each other? Do they cause problems for everyone else? Conflict in the workplace is a painful reality.

The goal is to recognize friction and tension and deal with it before it escalates into a major problem. One point is clear--conflict does not magically go away if ignored.

Certain types of conflict in the workplace, such as sexual harassment and discrimination, are very obvious and readily identified. Other forms of conflict may not be so easily identified.

Small, irritating events that occur repeatedly over time may cause one individual to strike out at another. Managers who exhibit favoritism toward one or more employees set themselves up for problems with the "non-favored." Employees who find ways to appear busy while doing nothing can easily create dissatisfaction among the rest of the department. Conflict may develop when an employee, because he or she did not fully understand the job responsibilities, receives an unsatisfactory job evaluation.

What type of conflict requires intervention? Anything that disrupts the office or poses a threat to other employees needs addressing. The degree to which you tolerate a situation before intervention may vary. A manager may not feel it necessary to intervene when a minor exchange of words occurs between employees--unless such an incident becomes a daily occurrence and expands beyond the employees initially involved. However, a situation where one employee threatens another requires immediate action. When handling conflict, some basic guidelines apply.

Acknowledge the situation. I remember an exchange between a manager and an upset employee. The manager said, "Well, don

Gregory P. Smith, author of The New Leader, and How to Attract, Keep and Motivate Your Workforce. He speaks at conferences, leads seminars and helps organizations solve problems. He leads an organization called Chart Your Course International located in Conyers, Georgia. Phone him at (770)860-9464 or email More information is available at

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