Confidently Handle Workplace Conflict with Humility & Listening Skills

How to handle conflict in the workplace: it’s a tough question. Why? Because we are all people with various perspectives. Every team member has different strengths they bring to the table. Naturally, disagreements sometimes ensue, but workplace conflict still has a bad rap. So many people avoid any conversation that remotely smells of conflict. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Having hard conversations can in fact be a healthy and surefire way you and your team can better support each other.

How Do You Resolve Conflict in the Workplace?

While having a clear-cut solution for all conflicts would be nice, finding resolution isn’t a mathematical equation. However, a few simple steps can go a long way in resolving workplace conflicts. We boil it down to two main steps: maintaining humble confidence and using listening skills.

But to keep from getting too abstract as we walk through these points, we thought we would create a simple scenario on how this could play out. And since our team lives and breathes all things digital marketing, we picked a situation that a lot of marketers might face.

Let’s say you’re a writer, and you’ve spent hours upon hours crafting a new page for your website. The content reads well, packs a punch and even has some humor sprinkled in. However, when your team member proofreads the content, they have major revisions. Reading through the comments, you’re initially bummed and not sure you agree with the ideas. So you set up a meeting with your coworker to talk through the feedback.

Maintain Humble Confidence in Your Workplace Conflicts

Before you jump into a conversation—and yes, it should be an in-person, face-to face conversation whenever possible—take a moment to look at your own attitude. A huge part of successful conflict management is how you handle yourself, even down to the details like your posture and tone. If you infuse humility and confidence into your conversation, you can gain the respect of your coworkers, even if you don’t see eye to eye.

Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean you're in the wrong. You can stand behind your ideas without being defiant or territorial. Always know why you did what you did, but keep a teachable spirit.

Humility carries the idea of valuing the opinions of others more than your own. You have your reasons for why you constructed the content of the page in the way you did, but what if there are ways to make your ideas even better? Wouldn’t it be worth your time to hear those ideas out?

By keeping this posture, along with careful listening skills, you can face conflict in a way you feel proud of and learn from (and we hope the same is true of those you communicate with, but remember you can only control what you can control).

Actively Use Your Listening Skills

Listening is easier said than done, but growing your listening skills can be your saving grace when it comes to handling workplace conflict. Here’s how you can put your listening skills into practice.

1. Get All the Details

One of the biggest culprits of workplace conflict is miscommunication—i.e. you don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle. Whether you have multiple people involved in a project or it’s just you and one other coworker, make sure you get the whole picture before you move forward. Sometimes the best place to start a conversation is, “I would love to hear you explain your feedback in more detail. Can you tell me why…?” You might be surprised how a seemingly hard conversation can be cleared up by simply taking the time to get all of the details.

2. Don’t Assume, Ask Questions

As you absorb the details, something may sound amiss or you might be overwhelmed with completely new information. Take mental note of those points, and then, once your coworker has finished their explanation, you can respond with your specific questions. These should not be based on your assumptions (“you don’t like my writing style?”) but on the feedback they provided (“so you’re saying shifting the content here could be more impactful to our audience?”). This shows your teammates you are paying attention to their explanations and truly want to understand their perspective.

Additionally, they may be unaware of holes in their ideas until they start answering some of your questions. Then, as they begin to explain, they become self-aware of an oversight they may have had. The lightbulb clicks, and they are more open to a new solution.

On the flipside, you might realize your own ideas fall short of the right solution as your conversation goes on, and the direction your coworker provided is on the right track, after all.

In our writing conflict example, let’s say you see your coworker took two whole paragraphs out of your introduction section, and you ask, “I notice you took out these two paragraphs. Could you explain why?” Maybe they think your main point is stronger without those paragraphs. Or perhaps you explain that those two paragraphs lay a foundation for the next content piece you're working on, and once they understand the bigger picture, they realize it’s better to keep the content. Either way, you won’t reach these conclusions without having these discussions.

3. Welcome Edits & Feedback

Oftentimes we have a fearful connotation of feedback, as if we’re remembering the red-ink markups from our English teacher on the paper we bombed in high school. But in the workplace, you can see these thoughts in a new light if you look at feedback as an opportunity.

Maybe without even realizing it, you used the word “support” eight different times in a four paragraph section, and your coworker said, “Maybe find some synonyms.” Of course the content will read better if you vary your word choice!

And if any of the feedback isn’t clear, you can ask for clarification. “I want to make sure I understand your comment correctly. You want me to…” Sometimes you may just need to hear the explanation verbally for it to sink in.

As an important side note, we understand we are providing a more lighthearted scenario, but sometimes conflict is complex and heavy; no matter how well you try and handle the situation, you can’t seem to find a resolution. For those situations, you may need to reach out to your manager for further support.

Blue Compass Knows How to Handle Conflict in the Workplace by Centering Our Positive Company Culture

At Blue Compass, we truly value our team communication. Every day, we come into our office and are reminded of the five values central to our company culture:

  • We are positive
  • We grow our expertise
  • We support one another
  • We give clients our best
  • We reject drama and gossip

Abiding by our values doesn't mean we don't have differing opinions or experience workplace conflict from time to time. When we do have conflict, we positively believe the best of each other with no room for gossip. We grow our expertise in learning from one another. And we support one another in the new ideas we come up with, all so that we can give our clients the very best in everything we do.

And if you are trying to uncover digital marketing and web development solutions for your business, our experts are here to help you reach your goals. Contact us for support in SEO strategies, new websites, and more. We look forward to connecting with you!


Blue Compass Culture

professional headshot of office dog
Mac & Cheese

Mac and Cheese is on the Digital Bark-eting team at Blue Compass. He loves greeting his team members when they arrive for the day, encouraging fun breaks during the workday and taking naps in various places throughout the office. He also enjoys saying hello to clients and other visitors - especially the mail carriers who bring treats! Mac is an important part of our team of digital experts at Blue Compass, where we help brands succeed online through web design, development and digital marketing strategies.