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Communication in the Workplace: Conflict Resolution Among Equals

Lauren Blackwell


When approaching a conflict or situation in the workplace from a communication perspective, many may find that they have been told how to resolve conflict with their superiors, but what about with their equals? Your colleagues, coworkers of similar rank, fellow mail room attendants, co-ceos; every day when you go into work, these are the people that you will be working with the most, and frankly, you can either choose to remain cordial and friendly with them during times of conflict, or just the opposite. But how do you do it? How do you effectively communicate with your equals at work without diminishing their character, adding to the conflict at hand, or exterminating the cohesive environment? You exhibit the three qualities of effective interpersonal communication: openness, flexibility, and kindness.

Openness is the first – and typically the most difficult – characteristic to put into action, for it has to do with the way that you view others. Being open requires that you welcome your colleagues “with warmth, cheerfulness, and genuine concern” in any situation, and that you are always “accepting of differences in opinion” or in the beliefs of your coworkers. If you provide genuine acceptance for your coworkers at all times, then you will be less likely to engage in any form of conflict in the first place, and thus making your experience in the workplace a much better one.

The second quality of an effective interpersonal communicator is flexibility. When used in this context, flexibility is the ability to adapt to the people and to the situations that surround you. If you are willing to accommodate your behavior to lighten or enhance the mood that has risen in a time of conflict, then you are essentially being the catalyst for conflict diminishment and thus a more creative and cohesive work-space. Maintaining flexibility at work allows for respect to be emphasized as well, for if one is committed to building strong, respectful relationships with those whom they work with, then the probability of conflicts arising is lesser.

The final quality that one must demonstrate in order to maintain effective communication interactions is kindness. Implementing kindness into the workplace is not as easy as it sounds, simply because when most people are engaging in some form of conflict, they tend to speak before they think, and oftentimes what they blurt out comes off a lot harsher than necessary. Many people at work feel the need to engage in some form of competition or rivalry with their equals, and while being kind may seem like the last thing you want to do when already stressed and presented with the prospect of conflict, doing so is the best way to diminish disagreements. One must note that we cannot change the actions of other people, but we can influence the response that we get from people based off our actions and reactions.

They key to maintaining a work environment that is (for the most part) free of conflict is to demonstrate three qualities of an effective interpersonal communicator: openness, flexibility, and kindness. Most of us want the environment that we work in to be a peaceful one, and the only way that we can do that is by effectively communicating with those sitting right next to us. When interacting with your equals at work, do yourself and them a favor, and remember to be open, be flexible, and be kind.

By Bianca Libbon