Conflict is a natural part of life, from your home to your office and your personal life to your professional life. Most people don’t enjoy conflict, but everyone must learn how to best deal with conflict, especially in the workplace.

Choose your Battles

As you grow in your career, you will be able to decipher what is an urgent conflict and what is a conflict that can go without your attention. Choose your battles when it comes to conflict in the office. For instance, confronting a coworker about where they place their lunch in the refrigerator is most likely not a battle worth fighting. However, confronting an employee about consistently arriving late to a meeting is most likely a conflict that is worth resolving. Look for the bigger picture: how the conflict affects the company, and if so, is it in a positive or negative way?

Investigate

If you are overseeing conflict between coworkers, you must do your research and investigation before coming to any conclusions. Look for an independent source, as they are usually the best source of information. After speaking to an independent source, you will most likely have more questions to take back to the two people in conflict. Bring in as many outside, credible, sources as possible.

If there is an independent source of information available that gives color to the conflict, access it before you speak to the other party involved. You may then have other questions for the person who came to you or with whom you have a conflict. The answers to those questions will help you understand their perspective.

Seek to Understand

All conflicts arise for a reason. Instead of looking to place blame, seek to understand why the conflict occurred in the first place. For instance, if a coworker of yours seems to take an excessive amount of personal phone calls during working hours, think about the “why” behind that first. Are they going through a tough personal situation? That may be the reason they have been on personal phone calls more frequently lately. When you understand the reasoning behind why someone is acting a certain way, it is much easier to approach the situation.

Conflict in the workplace, as in life, is impossible to ignore. Instead of dodging it at every turn, use strategies to effectively handle conflict in the workplace. First, decide if it is a battle worth fighting. If you have deemed it so, do the proper background research and investigation. Lastly, seek to understand the “why” behind the conflict. Not only will this help you understand the conflict at hand, but it will also help you understand your colleague better overall.