Bywater Consulting Group, LLC
Liz Bywater, PhD

November 2007

Ten Common Conflict Resolution
Mistakes – and How to Avoid Them

One of the most common and frustrating impediments to worker productivity is conflict between employees. In any organization, unresolved conflict can strain relationships, create tension and negativity, fuel office gossip, and dampen morale. I'm not talking here of the kind of open debate that results in enhanced creativity, collaboration, and innovation. Rather, I'm referring to the sort of every day conflict that makes life unpleasant and uncomfortable when it goes unaddressed.

Many of us struggle with finding the right approach to handling disputes and disagreements. We don't always get it right. Sometimes our efforts at dealing with conflict only make matters worse.

Whether you're engaged in a heated debate, a stubborn disagreement, or an outright feud, you'll need to take a strategic approach to resolving the problem. You'll be most effective if you avoid making these common mistakes.

In other words, here's what NOT to do:

1. Make assumptions - about the situation, the other person's perceptions, motivations, or reactions. You'll get a much clearer and more accurate picture by asking the other person directly.

2. Take it personally - it rarely is!

3. Look for blame. Instead, try to identify cause.

4. Avoid the problem. It'll only get worse, breed resentment, and resurface at a later date. You've simply got to deal directly with the issue at hand.

5. Attack the other person's character. That's just playing dirty. It will not help you work things out and it will almost certainly have a lasting, negative impact.

6. Gossip – about the problem or about the other person involved. It's unprofessional and will only make matters worse.

7. Bring it up in public. This is a private matter to be resolved between you and the other party.

8. Bring it up when there's not enough time to address it. Instead, leave adequate time for a thorough discussion - or introduce the issue and schedule a time to resume talks in the immediate future.

9. Bring it up when you're angry, stressed, or filling ill. That's a disservice to you and the other person involved. Wait until you're calm and feeling up to snuff.

10. Address the situation via email. Email leaves far too much room for misinterpretation. While we're on the subject, don't copy others on a personal matter. This will almost certainly make the other party feel defensive, angry, or humiliated. It won't, however, help resolve the problem.

We'll keep talking about conflict and how to best deal with it. Look to next month's newsletter for more tips and advice on how to manage conflict with greater confidence, comfort, and success.

Speaking Engagements

Liz Bywater will be speaking at the January 16, 2008, meeting of the Women's Business Forum ( The topic of her presentation will be: Following Through on New Year’s Resolutions: Moving Beyond Mere Good Intentions. The meeting runs from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. and is open to the public. Come join us for this fun and interactive presentation!


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Best personal regards,

Liz Bywater, PhD

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