While the workplace often provides excellent opportunities for collaboration, teamwork, and unity, the occasional conflict does occur. As frustrating as it is, conflict can lead to better self-awareness and understanding of those around us. It’s all in how we handle the confrontation.


In this post, let’s walk through the right way to confront a coworker in a way that’s positive, respectful, and professional.


Determine if Confrontation is Necessary

First and foremost, it’s important to determine if a confrontation is even necessary. As easy as it can be to assume the worst, it’s vital that you first offer up the benefit of the doubt. For example, was a coworker late to an important meeting, causing you additional stress while you scrambled to stall the customer? Before assuming they were getting a latte or chose to sleep in, take a moment to consider the possibility that something happened that was out of their control. Was there an emergency at home? Did they get caught up in out-of-nowhere traffic? Also consider their track record. Is this a common reoccurrence for them, or was it a one-time situation? If the offense is small and is out of the ordinary, a confrontation isn’t necessary. If this is an on-going problem, go ahead and schedule some time to chat with the coworker.


Do It In Person

When facing confrontation, it’s tempting to hide behind an email. However, let me caution you: sending an email instead of talking in person can: 1) Skew how the reader interprets the message because you can’t hear someone’s tone over email. 2) Risk additional individuals becoming aware of the conversation (whether you can see them or not) through forwarding and blind-copying. 3) Honestly, make you appear a bit cowardly because you aren’t facing the problem head on.


The conversation doesn’t have to be intense or long, and no, you don’t have to send a calendar invitation. Simply approach the co-worker and let them know that you’d like to have a quick conversation, and tell them the place and time. An easy, “Hey Emily! I’d like to grab a minute with you to discuss what happened earlier. Are you available for 10 minutes at the end of lunch? I can grab us a coordination room so we have some privacy” works great.


Take Out the Emotion

We aren’t robots, and it’s okay to share if you were hurt or frustrated by something a coworker did. But when confronting a coworker, try to keep the conversation on the facts. If you start bringing in your feelings and opinions, it’s easy to go a bit overboard into your emotions instead of what actually happened. This lets both you and the coworker know what went wrong, what needs to be fixed, and what can be done moving forward.


Let it Go

Let’s face it, holding a grudge makes us feel powerful. However, it benefits no one for you to stew with your thoughts. If the conversation with your coworker has happened, both parties understand each other’s feelings, and any necessary apologies or plans for future situations have been completed, then it’s time to let it go. People aren’t perfect, and in the same way that you’re going to wrong your coworkers sometimes, they’re also going to wrong you. Focus on proper communication to ensure that these conflicts are far and few between, and then let past issues go.


Confrontation can be scary, and can sometimes have negative effects not just on the individual you’re confronting, but on you as well.  But if you focus on these key steps with the intention to better improve relations, you will be on the right track.



About Debi

Debi is a coach to high performers, leaders and business owners wanting to achieve more and grow beyond what they believe is possible. Known for her clarifying insight and a pragmatic approach, Debi brings her clients to the next step by asking the right questions during strategy development and supporting them during strategy implementation. With experience in management, recruitment and employee development for various industries, she has a wide scope of expertise and will confidently guide you towards a successful future in your career.


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