Conflict Resolution: Tips & Tricks


By Taylor Burton Published on February 7, 2024

Estimated reading time: 4 Minutes

You're a lawyer. Dealing with conflict is in the job description, but sometimes, it can get personal. Conflict can arise between yourself and a client, your partner, or the opposing legal team. Or perhaps you're in charge of a firm and you find yourself in the middle of two workers waging war. No matter the situation, conflict resolution skills are always useful to have. Read on for some helpful tips and tricks to help you manage conflict in the workplace.

Speaking of conflict--if you're a business lawyer, join us on February 14 for "Business Divorce: Lies, Deception, Fraud, and the Buyout."  This seminar will guide you through the twisted maze of a business divorce. Learn how to recognize and approach the many aspects of the process and how to better advise clients with real practical solutions.

Read on!

Stay ahead of it. If you can, it's best to take preemptive measures to prevent the buildup of negative feelings. This means keeping an ear to the ground for any issues among your staff and prioritizing your firm's morale. It also means keeping communication lines open so that everyone feels heard. Your client, your partner, and your coworkers should always feel comfortable approaching you with what's on their mind.

Don't avoid difficult conversations. It's true that many of us will often go out of our way to avoid confrontation. We turn to venting our feelings to a third party or blowing off steam at the gym. Unfortunately, this only puts off the inevitable. Resentment will continue to build if left unaddressed. Conflict is always tough to deal with, but it's best to face it head on, otherwise you will never move past it. Just keep telling yourself it's all for the best!

Businessman shaking hands with a colleague in the office

Get to the root of the problem. There are all sorts of reasons conflict might arise in the workplace. Clashing personalities, misunderstandings, and uneven workloads could all be potential causes. It's your job to get to the root of the issue in order to solve it. Take time to speak with everyone and make sure you're getting every side of the story. Use those active listening skills. Conflict left unchecked can affect team dynamics and hinder your workplace's productivity and morale.

Always be professional. If you're stuck in the middle, do not take sides or badmouth anyone. It's up to you to be the neutral third party and mediator. If you're embroiled in the conflict yourself, never resort to insults. When they go low, you go high. Stay professional no matter what happens, because that's exactly what you are. It's up to you to set an example of what "professional" means in your workplace.

Stay level. Emotions can run high in difficult situations. If you truly wish to mediate, you must put your emotions aside. Escalating will only make the situation worse. Keep a level head. Communicate that you would like to address the issue in a calmer manner. Do not come off as holier-than-thou, but keep it matter of fact. It's best to talk through problems calmly and logically once things have cooled down.

This doesn't mean to completely dismiss the emotional component of the argument! Acknowledge that everyone's emotions are valid. Empathy goes a long way in resolving conflict.

Apologize. It's never too late to apologize! Some of us struggle with admitting we're wrong, but sometimes that's all it takes; a simple act of contrition and a promise to do better in the future. After all, what's done is done. 

Businessman ison way to say sorry to his work partner

Create policies and procedures. You may have resolved one conflict, but another is never far off! Take the time to implement a procedure you can follow the next time a conflict arises in the office. Create a step-by-step process that includes reporting and mediation. This will help you to address them more efficiently in the future, and hopefully resolve them before they escalate into something major.

Seek outside help. If you want to take it a step further, there are educational programs that will train your employees on how to handle and prevent conflict in the workplace. Or perhaps this has escalated into something so big, internal resolution is no longer an option. Do not hesitate to seek outside help. There's always a chance that the issue could get too big for you to handle alone.

In the end, you've got to use your best judgment and rely on those lawyerly instincts you've cultivated over the years. And sometimes, you just get lucky, and these problems go away on their own. If not, you've got all the tips and tricks you need to handle it the next time things go awry!