The workplace can be a competitive environment, especially in sales. Each person has different motivations and processes. Team members are all vying to meet targets, inevitably goals may clash, and conflicts may arise.

There’s nothing to fear though, because when resolved properly, conflicts can result in better understanding and improved working relationships.

So, let’s go over some negotiation strategies to turn around workplace conflicts.

Address Conflicts


Confronting conflicts head-on can bring lasting solutions. Workplace conflicts are often a result of poor communication. When not confronted in time, petty grievances could accelerate to major confrontations derailing your efforts in team building.

Consider the case of Susan and James. As part of the sales team, they had to prepare a pitch for a major client. During the next meeting, James made a presentation that included ideas Susan had shared in private. Susan was livid! James used her ideas without even bothering to give her credit.

Susan kept silent about these negative feelings and for months afterward couldn’t hold a conversation with James or even look him in the eye. All the while, James didn’t understand the change in attitude and worked with other team members while avoiding Susan. Even during the sales course for the team, Susan was withdrawn resulting in a lack of rhythm within the sales team. The silent war between the two created competing alliances, reducing the team’s effectiveness.

In the months that followed, the negative workplace environment lost the team some lucrative opportunities. When the two finally got to talking, it emerged that James didn’t realize Susan thought he stole her ideas. James revealed he admired Susan’s work style and he always tried to incorporate her ideas in whatever concepts he comes up with.

Additionally, he’s always telling colleagues and supervisors about Susan’s input. On the day of the presentation, he simply didn’t find an opportune moment to mention her during the presentation. However, colleagues understood it was a collaborative effort and not a personal initiative. If only someone had spoken up, the team may not have lost their unity of purpose in the preceding months and would have had better sales outcomes.

Listen Actively


Listening to what others have to say can lead to better conflict resolution outcomes. Often in workplace negotiations, people interrupt and talk over each other. This gets in the way of solving the dispute.

Here are some negotiation course tips for developing active listening skills:

  • Be genuinely curious about the other person’s viewpoint.
  • Maintain open and welcoming body language by turning toward the speaker and maintaining an attentive facial expression.
  • Have an opinion but keep an open mind.
  • Wait for your turn to talk, don’t interrupt.
  • Avoid reinterpreting what others say. Listen without rejecting or modifying what’s been said.
  • Identify cues and non-verbal cues. Be quick to recognize when the verbal expressions don’t match what you see.
  • Don’t finish other people’s sentences even when they seem to be stuck. Take notes when you feel you might forget something.
  • If the other person takes too long to express their views, ask without aggression to start your turn to speak. You could say, “I listened keenly to your points and would like to respond.”

Seek Value-Creation


Often, workmates view negotiations as a zero-sum game. Some may view being a negotiator as the ability to win arguments and achieve their interests over other people’s.

However, negotiation courses say a combative approach may lead to a breakdown in effective communication. This can leave both sides unsatisfied with the outcome.

A more effective strategy would be to reconcile interests and add more value to what’s at stake rather than each side defending their interests.

In our earlier example, James and Susan could continue fighting to take credit for ideas in their sales meeting. However, the better option would be to work together to add more value to what’s at stake for the whole sales group.

Team members can add to the pie by:

  • Reconciling different perspectives: Find a common stand on matters under negotiation such as budgets, responsibilities, and roles. For instance, James could declare Susan’s input in a follow-up email if there wasn’t sufficient time in the sales pitch.
  • Managing cognitive biases: Sometimes poor decision-making is due to biases and how people weigh certain information. Colleagues can improve outcomes by taking emotions out of the equation. In the earlier example, Susan could ask for credit rather than stew in silent anger.
  • Reformulation: Take into account different views to guide different sides into moving away from fixed positions and ultimatums to areas of common interest. For instance, both James and Susan could move from individual ideas to focus more on group achievements. That way they could stay on course to meet their team targets rather than create conflicts based on self-interest.

Manage Emotions Carefully


Unbridled can stand in the way of effective conflict resolution. Psychologist Daniel Goleman says a tense emotional state can lead to a phenomenon known as ‘amygdala hijack.’ This is when you lose access to the part of your brain responsible for rational thinking—the prefrontal cortex. As a result, your decision-making abilities become compromised. So, it’s important to get on top of your emotions to manage the situation carefully.

It helps to choose your timing carefully when you engage with someone about the conflict. Avoid diving into discussions when you’re angry as you may end up saying or doing something that may inflame the situation. Also, consider steering the conversation away from playing the blame game. Rather stay calm and collect yourself to keep your emotions clear. It’s also beneficial to avoid triggering the other person.

When you feel negative emotions swelling up, consider taking a breather to reflect and reframe. Ask yourself what you want to achieve and how you’d like the situation to go. With this new frame of mind, keep your eyes on the bigger picture.