Helping You Cope With & Stop



Five Choices to Handle Adversarial Conflict and Bullying

Not all conflicts can be resolved.  However, would you like to know some tips to resolve more conflicts involving bullying in the workplace?

a) A refusal to engage  b) Most prevalent

A very obvious verbal attack occurs, and the target, due to fear, simply walks away.

While this obviously is not a good way of dealing with bullying in the workplace the majority of the time, it is worth being considered as a strategy when the conflict is not worth the effort of being addressed or when you feel that speaking up will get you into more hot water. Rather than avoiding the conflict based on fear, you can  intentionally decide to use avoidance as a tactic to empower yourself toward protection.

Internalizing conflict and submitting to the hurt; not standing up for your needs.

Listening to unhelpful criticism and perhaps believing it.

Usually occurs when the target has low confidence and low self-esteem. This can help you to cope if you know that there is a solution or change coming soon.

You push to have your way in the conflict, without regard for the other’s needs.

You are very upset with someone, and when they try to explain their situation, you cut them off and over-explain your point in order to gain control.

This can be very useful when the conflict is mild and you are passionate about your stance, but can lead to a vicious circle as the conflict escalates.

This is more win-win, and requires the goodwill of both parties.  You don’t give in to the conflict, but rather work out a solution somewhere between the two sides.

One person wants to order a type of food and the other person wants another.  Both compromise and order something totally different.

This can lead to the downfall of the actual solution leaving none of the sides happy.  Sometimes no one wins, however, is also does not pit one against the other and shows goodwill in that both were willing to come to the middle. An absence of someone offering this in a relationship over time is an indication that the relationship is only operating one way.

Ideally the most useful tactic. The aim here is to focus on working together to arrive at a solution, where both sides have ownership of and commitment to the solution. This only occurs when both people have a high regard for one another or want to appear as if they do.

Example 1:
You and someone else are at completely opposed viewpoints over a project. You sit down and work out why they believe in their point of view, and explain your own. Clever and lateral thinking can provide a solution, which answers both sides, but is not a compromise.

Example 2:
Someone is displaying adversarial behavior toward you at work. You talk to this person using the strategies below and collaborate on modifying the behavior exchange.

Use this strategy when the goal is to meet as many of the current needs as possible. This can be the most difficult strategy if confidence is low, as it involves actually naming the issue to the conflict-creator, which can cause huge anxiety and fear.

To collaborate successfully on an continuing conflict you need to follow a few basic guidelines.

  • You must recognize that (maybe) part of the problem is your own fault: maybe you allowed it to happen and did not try to address it right away. You can state this aloud and actively take part of the responsibility, as this might put the onus onto the other person to take the other part of the responsibility.
  • Remember that we frequently don’t like in others what we don’t want to see in ourselves. Be very sure that you have not committed the same conflict/offense.
  • Manage yourself during the resolution attempt – learn calming strategies if you are hot-tempered, or confidence boosters if you are shy. Try not to be emotional, as emotion will only make things escalate, and put a further wedge between parties. You can however be sincere.It is your responsibility to manage yourself; anything less, you are putting unnecessary ‘stuff’ on the other.
  • Maintain eye contact and use your body language to convey your belief in what you are saying. Don’t fiddle with something nervously, don’t cross your arms protectively, and don’t put yourself on a lower level than the other person (such as sitting on a lower chair). Our body language shows our heart. Is your heart showing the desire to collaborate?
  • Don’t believe that the best defense is a good offense – that is part of the Competing strategy. Comebacks and not acknowledging another’s point of view are also part of competing: listen to the other side as they have just as much of a right to share as you do. Seek first to understand.
  • Work the issue, not the person: this means addressing the behavior rather than the entire existence of that person. There is a different level of ownership for behaviors, and people will take less offense if you address their behavior than if you criticize them personally. Never lay blame, as this will only fan the fires. Check your heart: can you separate the person from the performance? If you are not getting anywhere, ask for further information from the other person about the reasons for their behavior, but don’t ask questions with ‘why’ at the beginning – if you do, this will actively put the other person under the spotlight and they may get defensive.

Above all, remember people who create conflict are ultimately power-seekers who enjoy controlling others. Frequently this is because either they have suffered in a similar way before or feel that they have very little control over their own lives and they do anything they can to feel in control. A little compassion will take you a long way in resolving the situation and in putting it behind you when it is resolved. After all, what is the alternative? It’s time for extending the olive branch where we can.



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One response to “Five Choices to Handle Adversarial Conflict and Bullying”

  1. Paul says:

    thanks for the post

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Valerie Cade, CSP is a Workplace Bullying Expert, Speaker and Author of "Bully Free at Work: What You Can Do To Stop Workplace Bullying Now!" which has been distributed in over 100 countries worldwide. For presentations and consulting on workplace bullying prevention and respectful workplace implementation, go to

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