Culture Shift: How to deal with conflict at work
By Ashleigh Petersen Galen Emanuele

Culture Shift: How to deal with conflict at work

First: Stop trying to win at conflict. A lot of the time when we have conflict, we think of it as me against you, trying to fight it out. I win and you lose.

There’s a really important reframe here to think about conflict with other people as it is you and me against the problem.

My favorite visual for this: It’s you and me in the boxing ring against the problem. Instead of you and me in a boxing ring going head-to-head against each other, it is us vs. the problem. It instantly flips the script so we’re working together to overcome the challenge, together.

“What if we don’t like each other?”

This is a challenging part of work and also undeniably common. We’re not going to be best friends and love every single person that we work with. So, what if the problem in your working relationship is that you don’t like each other?

Maybe you have very different communication styles, you come from different places, or the problem is a personality conflict, such as “I don’t like anything about this person.”

The good news is this reframe still works and still applies here to help you get along with anyone at work.

If you and I have to work together and the problem or challenge is that we don’t really like each other, we don’t connect, whatever reason it is, it is still you and me against that problem. The problem in this case is simply that we don’t get along, but once we name it, we can start to move past it together.

Ask questions like, “How can we solve this? How can we have a positive working relationship, be productive, and work for this company on the same team? What does it look like to still collectively be successful despite the fact that we don’t jive? How do we overcome this and still work together?”

So, just a quick reframe around conflict. It’s really valuable to frame it up that way, and to level-set with the other person and say, “Hey, I don’t see this as you against me. I see the two of us against this specific thing we’re trying to overcome together.”

I find this to be a great, different spin on navigating conflict which we know is an ever-present challenge at work. So, why not try to tackle it in a different way?

That’s it, go be awesome.

Galen Emanuele is a speaker and trainer on business leadership and team culture based out of Portland, Ore. Every week, Emanuele produces a video and blog post highlighting vital conversations, building skill sets and showing teams how to drive exceptional culture and leadership. To see more, visit

Ashleigh Petersen

Ashleigh PetersenAshleigh Petersen

Ashleigh Petersen is the digital communications manager for Rental Management. She writes news and feature articles, plus coordinates the monthly Safety Issue and several sections in the magazine. Ashleigh loves spending time with her husband and young son, baking, gardening and listening to true crime and comedy podcasts.

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