RSS How to Defuse a Work-Related Disagreement

Have you ever been in the middle of a contentious discussion and wondered, ‘Where is he (or she) coming from?’

I’m not referring to comprehending each other – rather, on a broader scale - “How did he or she come to have this perspective in the first place?” Communication lapses are most common when there is a disconnect in how we perceive one another, or how we perceive fact and fiction. I’d like to share three tactics to use when working with teammates whose ideas or actions seem to “come out of left field.”

  1. You must listen before you can understand one another. It is important to listen in order to understand. When I’m involved in a serious discussion with a teammate, I find it beneficial to repeat back what I’m hearing. Not only does this validate the other individual, but I also benefit from hearing immediate feedback. This dialogue of giving and receiving input shines a much greater light on the matter at hand, and can de-escalate a delicate situation. If it doesn’t, at least you’ve aimed for clarity and humility.
  2. Sometimes not taking action, or delaying action, is the most prudent course to take. It is important not to act immediately on information we receive. There have been times during my career when I thought I knew “the whole story” when in fact I only knew fragments of the story. As one would expect, this caused unintended consequences when I later tried to handle the situation. If immediate action must be taken, be humble and recognize you may be “wading into” the situation without being armed with all of the data you need. Ideally, you should be confident that the perspectives of all parties involved were sufficiently voiced.
  3. Allow the truth to guide both parties. When dealing with issues that involve both fact and fiction, you must allow the facts to dictate the outcome. Because you are dealing with more than one perspective, individuals may rely upon different truths to form their perspective. No matter what the perspective, the ultimate truth will form the basis for action.

Allow me to share a personal story to make a point. Growing up, I would occasionally argue with my older sister when she was tasked with watching me while my parents were running errands. I didn’t particularly like the fact that she was “in charge” as I perceived her authority as autocratic. On those few occasions when I felt justifiable to complain to my parents about her poor supervision, they seemed to follow the three thoughts I noted above.

They took the time to listen to us both in order to understand what the problem was. They didn’t act immediately, and instead waited until they could process the information and decide upon an appropriate course of action. Lastly, they allowed the truth to determine the “punishment.”  Occasionally, my sister was reprimanded, and (I have to admit to my chagrin) occasionally I was reprimanded.

What are your go-to strategies for resolving a disagreement in the workplace? Please share your own ideas or tips for making peace. As always, thanks for your support!

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2 Responses to “How to Defuse a Work-Related Disagreement”

  1. Joshua Samples says:


    I can’t express how important these steps are. Not only are they important in the work environment but they are important in your everyday interaction with family and friends.

    I am only a young adult and naturally I think I know everything. As I have matured I have learned how to step down from my stance and listen to the other person. It is amazing how this simple thing creates a more positive interaction and produces better results.

  2. Mitch says:

    Thank you very much for your comment, Joshua. Like you, I have found many lessons at work can have positive impacts at home, and vice versa. I’m constantly reminded of just how important the little things are! Enjoy your holidays and feel free to comment on other posts of interest to you!

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Home About Archive Mitch HagstromMitch Hagstrom
Executive Vice President
Chief Banking Officer
Pacific Continental Bank

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