We all want our workplace to be as free from conflict and disruption as possible. Even so, when people have views, values or approaches to problems that differ, the opportunity for conflict exists. Most people are able to resolve or put their disagreements aside and move on. Sometimes, especially if a person feels a loss of respect or perceives another's actions as threatening, conflict can escalate.
Signs of Unresolved Conflict
- People who harbor grudges against one another.
- Name calling.
- Arguments that are disruptive and that don't lead to resolution or agreement.
- People who talk about a person behind his/her back.
- Finding yourself anxious about the situation you will face when you encounter an individual.
- Being fearful about another person's behavior.
- People going out of their way to avoid each other.
Resolving conflict takes skill. The best time to build skills is before you find yourself in critical need of them. Explore UW Professional & Organizational Development's course offering on Workplace Violence and Conflict Resources.
Assess your Situation
While conflict can be "one-sided", as when a bully decides to pick on a person who is perceived as weak, responsibility for conflict is often shared. Resolving conflict typically requires the participation of all of the parties who are involved. Think about what you can or might be willing to do to improve your situation. If you are concerned about the behavior of another person, think about what changes might make the situation better from your perspective.
Recognize that no matter how legitimate you feel your concerns are, others are may see the situation differently. Resolving conflict can depend on the parties being willing to acknowledge and accept these differences in perspective without establishing "who's right" and "who's wrong".
Be prepared to describe what would make the situation better from your perspective. Recognize that some goals like "having the other person fired" or "being assigned to a new job in another organization" may not be realistic.
If you don't feel able to resolve the situation yourself, consider getting help from one or more of the following resources.
- Call 911 if you have been threatened with violent behavior.
- Call the Violence Prevention and Response Team at 206-685-SAFE (206-685-7233) if you are concerned that the situation has the potential for becoming violent.
- Talk with your supervisor – explain the problem from your perspective and ask for help in seeking resolution
- Talk with your unit's Human Resources Consultant – Your Human Resources Consultant can help you assess your situation and develop reasonable goals or methods for resolving it. Your Human Resources Consultant may be able to help mediate the resolution of a problem
- Speak with UW CareLink – CareLink is the University's faculty and staff assistance program and provides confidential in-person assessment and short-term counseling by local professionals for any issue that causes concern.
- Talk to the University's Ombudsman. The Ombudsman provides client-focused services for preventing, managing and resolving conflict among students, staff, and faculty.
Anger Management & Abuser Help Resources
If you may have difficulty managing your anger and behavior toward others, consider contacting one of the following resources for assistance.
- UW CareLink: 800-833-3031
- UW CareLink Provides confidential counseling for UW faculty and staff.
- Hall Health Mental Health Clinic: 206-543-5030
- Hall Health Mental Health Clinic Provides mental health services to students, faculty and staff, including assessments; individual, couple, family and group therapy; medication evaluation and management; and referrals when appropriate to other campus or community resources.