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How to avoid being the person that generates conflict in the workplace

Conflict highlights differences and creates clashes. That’s why it’s common at work. People with different personalities, opinions, beliefs and ways of working are all sharing the same space. There may also be unresolved grudges at play; bullying, harassment, or any number of small or large unmet expectations. And it’s still a conflict even if only one side is aware of the problem.

The Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness It to Thrive study found that 85% of employees deal with conflict on some level and 29% deal with it almost constantly. In light of the open plan office popularity, certain practices of office etiquette need to be adopted to reduce conflict and maintain a happy workplace for all! A well-managed conflict can bring positive change and stop it from happening again. The ability to communicate successfully is a very sought-after soft skill in the workplace.

Tips to prevent conflict at work

Other people's need to work

When people are sat near to you it can be tempting to start up a conversation with them. But just because you are available for a chat, doesn't mean that they are. If someone appears to be busy then it's probably because they are! It is best practice to ask if they 'have a minute' or 'can talk quickly' but if it is something that can wait then wait until they take a break.

Noisiness & Distractions

Adding to the above, loud conversations, loud phone calls, fidgeting, constant moving or habits like whistling or tapping can be distracting to others at work. Any music, videos or similar items should be watched using headphones. 


A messy desk can cause irritation and distraction to others around you. Your things should be confined to your workplace and shouldn't inflict on others, but this is not an excuse to keep your desk messy. Businesses may try to maintain a professional image and a messy desk may detract from this. Some companies also adhere to a Clean Desk Policy which can result in formal warnings for messy workstations. Simple tips like cleaning up at the end of the day, putting things in the dishwasher and binning any rubbish can help keep a tidy and happy workplace. Remember - Tidy Workplace, Tidy Mind!

Invading others space 

Someone's workspace might be in reach of you but it doesn't make it common space to share. It's best to think of someone's workspace on a shared desk as their 'private office' and try not to let your work encroach on theirs. This also accounts for not taking things from their desk without permission. 

Being considerate

Respect goes both ways, if you are respectful then you will get respect back! A code of conduct should be put into a workplace so that everyone knows what is expected by them. Any problems should be handled directly and diplomatically to stop them escalating. 

Teamwork makes the dream work!

A happy and cohesive team is essential to the success of any business! Make sure not to spread gossip, isolate people or excessively moan about little things. Holding meetings regularly to share ideas, set goals and talk about successes and concerns can also bring a team together and make things happen!


Just because it tastes good and smells good to you, doesn't mean it does to others! If you do have a particularly smelly food, then think about eating in in a kitchen or break room rather than eating at your desk. On top of this, some colleagues may be allergic to particular food and sometimes allergic reactions can be triggered by just being in the same environment as the food. 

Also, remember things like personal hygiene, this can be just as distracting to your colleagues. 

Coming to work when ill

In open plan offices, it is easy to spread germs when you're ill. Even though you may not want to miss a day off work, you need to think about the people you work with too and the possibility of making everyone else ill. Good hygiene practices when there's a bug going around (and generally day-to-day) are: covering your mouth when coughing, using hand sanitizer, bin tissues, wipe down desks, keyboards and phones.


Within one workspace you can have a wide and varying range of personalities. It is important to be tolerant of any personalities that differ to yours and understand that not everyone will agree with you all the time. Be open-minded and focus on the positives. 

A please and thank you goes a long way

Although they may seem little at the time, these 'magic words' can go a long way and have a prominent place in the business world. Although they may not be instantly recognised or acknowledged when used, they are often noticed and negatively remembered when not used. Using these common courtesies demonstrates respect to whoever you are talking to, particularly in a customer service role. 

Communal space

Try not to use communal spaces for long personal calls or treat it as your office. If you need to take personal calls either go outside, in the corridor or try to make it a short call if you need privacy. This also accounts for personal space like the bathrooms, don't use the restrooms to socialise and ensure you leave them in a tidy and clean condition. 

Preventing conflict in the workplace

Conflict can affect more than just those directly involved in it, it can affect those in the surrounding workplace too. These useful tips aim to prevent conflict so that you can sustain a peaceful and cohesive environment.

Conflict can arise from a varying amount of circumstances and within any type of organisation. With our Conflict Resolution Training course, employees can learn how to resolve conflict as well as prevent it.