How to handle workplace conflict by Dan White

By Guest Contributor Dan White

Author of The Soft Skills Book, Dan White gives his top tips on how to handle workplace conflict between employees and team members.

Conflict in business life is as inevitable as it is within families – it’s baked into our human DNA. So, it’s important that you know how to cope with it when it inevitably rears its ugly head. Handling conflict well not only diffuses the immediate tension but can also lead to a trusting, long-term partnership. The most important thing to remember is that when someone’s angry, they need someone else to acknowledge their anger nd hear about what has upset them. Once this understanding has been established, the solution is often surprisingly easy to find.

Regardless of how the conflict came about, there is an approach that has been proven to help alleviate the situation every time. It requires you to be ‘ALERT’ to any potential problems. If you detect an issue early, you have an opportunity to address it before it grows into a festering ball of anger and frustration. The following framework is designed to help you handle any confrontational situation effectively:













The first step it to acknowledge that the person you’re dealing with is unhappy. It helps to say something like, ‘I can see that you’re unhappy about the situation.’ Showing that you empathize with the disgruntled person goes a long way towards calming them down.



If you listen well to understand the issue in detail, it makes the person realize that you genuinely want to help resolve the situation.



Try exploring potential solutions by asking questions such as, ‘What would help most?’ And test options by asking, ‘How about if…?’



If you reach a mutually acceptable agreement, take time to describe it clearly, confirm your commitment to it and check whether the other party is happy with it.



At the end of the discussion, thank the person for taking the trouble to highlight the issue and for spending time with you to resolve it.

The process outlined above has been proven to be highly effective. What’s important is that the person appreciates that their point of view has been heard and that you’ve done something to make amends based on what they’ve said. Handling conflict well requires all the skills described in Chapter 2: listening to the person to understand their anger, judging how to handle the situation based on their personality and establishing what they’re seeking to achieve.


DAN WHITE is a marketing and insights innovator. His frameworks and visualizations have influenced generations of marketers via the methodologies they have informed, including the world’s leading brand measurement, media evaluation and copy-testing systems. This unique blend of expertise ensures that every piece of advice offered in The Smart Marketing Book and The Soft Skills Book is based on robust evidence and a wealth of practical experience.




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