How to Build Consensus in Place of Conflict

As more companies embrace the spirit of teamwork, you must learn to work with other people and truly become a team player to get the work done and help your organization be more competitive. In fact, if you are like most employees across the country, your organization has right-sized or may intend to merge or downsize, thereby creating more work to be done by fewer people. In addition, the constant push for quality and improved customer service necessitates cooperation among employees.

Conflict can hold you back from being your best and giving your best. You don’t feel confident or happy when you are in conflict with co-workers or even a customer. Maybe right now you think of someone you work with whom you are in conflict. It doesn’t make you feel good, does it? It may be uncomfortable enough that you dread going to work. As long you come in contact with others, however, you will experience conflict.

Big or Small
Conflict does not necessarily mean a big blow out! Just different views and opinions can create undercurrent. You think a project should be completed one way and your peer thinks it should be done another way. Maybe your executive thinks you did not thoroughly plan his trip the way he would have liked and you believe you did an excellent job. It is the little disagreements and perspectives that hinder our performance—slow us down. So don’t ignore little misunderstandings.

#1 Listen
Listen carefully in order to understand the other person’s point of view. Block out your own thoughts, judgments, and priorities and listen to the other person’s concerns and feelings.

#2 Solicit Ideas from Each Other
Ask the other person questions like, “What do you think the problem is?” “How do you see us working better together?” “How can I help you accomplish your goals?”

#3 Define the Problem
Are you clear on the real issue or conflict or is it just your perception? Ongoing communication helps clarify each person’s perception of the situation, ensuring that the problem is clearly defined.

#4 Use Facts Only
Stick to the facts when confronting someone. You will get more positive results when you deal with the facts than with the emotions around them.

#5 Acknowledge the Other Person’s Strengths
Objectively look at the situation and acknowledge the other person’s good points. Keep them in mind while dealing with the issue.

#6 Maintain Each Other’s Self-Esteem
It’s harmful to belittle others and diminishes your professional image. When confronting colleagues, make sure you communicate in a way that allows them to save face.

#7 Talk to Each Other; Not About Each Other
Make every effort to approach the other person directly. Don’t talk behind someone’s back. Have the courage to talk to them. This gives you an opportunity to work on solutions.

#8 Listen For Underlying Issues
Sometimes what we think is the problem, really isn’t. When the other person is speaking, listen for any hidden issues. Try to get to the heart of the conflict so you can deal with it.

#9 Be Open and Honest, Don’t Hint
Use assertive communication techniques. Go directly to the source, be direct and specific. Let the person know what you find acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

#10 Take Charge
Having an “attitude of taking charge” is not necessarily the same as the “skill of taking charge.” It starts with having the attitude, then developing certain skills. When you develop this attitude and fully subscribe to it, you will see others differently. You want to develop the skill to take charge in a way that you will get cooperation. People will want to do what you ask because they like and respect you, not because you bullied them into it.

#11 Seek Help from an Outside Source
There may be situations where you are too close to the problem and too emotionally involved to use good judgment. Consult other whose judgment you trust.

#12 Widen Your Circle
Don’t confine yourself to this one individual to set your value or be your friend. Build a wider networking circle and remain balanced in your at-work relationships and interactions.

#13 Keep Your Perspective
When conflicted it’s easy to think everything is negative and terrible. It isn’t! Keep a gratitude list, put a favorite happy photo on your cube wall, take a walk at lunchtime or grab a coffee with a friend.

#14 Walk Away
Sometimes you may find none of these strategies work; despite your efforts, the other person will not work with you to resolve the problem. There are times when you should not negotiate but instead must walk away.

  • Individual is highly competitive
  • Individual is unethical or illegal
  • Either party is too stressed to attempt reconciliation

I hope from this day forward you will change your thinking from managing conflict to consensus building. It will make a big difference.

Joan Burge


Ultimate Guide to Improving Workplace Culture


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6 thoughts on “How to Build Consensus in Place of Conflict”

  1. Thank you Jasmine for this article. I feel like you’ve been in my office the last two weeks and observed the conflict going on and how its truly started to affect me.

    1. Thanks, Keshia. I noticed that this was a post written by Joan. I just made the update. When I load them it defaults to me and I’m not always the author. Forgot to make that update before posting. Yes, it’s a hot topic. So glad that Joan has addressed it.

  2. So good! I refuse to engage when peoples voices raise. It’s really not productive. And I agree with Gloria, getting off topic is the worse. Number 13 is my favorite!

  3. Thanks for the reminder, Joan. For me, I applied #1 by simply listening to the other assistants while at lunch a few days ago. I accidentally sat down in the middle of a political conversation. I found it might have been rude to just get up because I invited myself to the table, which is what I normally do when i seep them in the cafe and is normally welcomed by them. : -) So, I simply listened…and ate my lunch…smiled…and listened. I don’t know them well enough to give my view, which differed from a few of them and also due to my belief to keep politics and work separate. I believe I most certainly diffused and avoided a conflict while saving face and everyone keep their own perspective. : -)

  4. I love this super helpful blog. I am so glad you did not leave #14 off the list. There are certainly times when one must Table the discussion and decision until a more ‘relaxed and refocused time’- face it, some days the conversation isn’t motivated by the facts- but by the situations going on in your discussion partner’s background. (Stress outside of work seeps into the office.) Coming back to it on another day, you are interacting with a completely different personality.

  5. Gloria von Gesslein

    What I find most frustrating is when people don’t stick with facts but allow their emotions to take over. That can easily get the topic off course real fast and is time wasting. For me, I don’t really like to have to steer the discussion back on course and redirect the other person back to the issue at hand. I feel if I can maintain myself, then they should, too, especially when I’m the customer and I consider the other person to be the professional and expert at what they are doing. If someone does go off course, someone else needs to take the lead to get it back on track.

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