Your next hiring manager would like to know how well you resolve conflicts. Before counting to 10 during your next office disagreement, checkout these five tips on unruffling feathers in the office.

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In many job interviews, an increasingly common question involves conflict resolution. Whether you’re seeking managerial work or an entry-level assistant position, your hiring manager will likely be interested in your ability to resolve uncomfortable situations with ease and understanding. All the technical skills in the world are useless if you can’t get along with your co-workers.

Conflicts that are left unresolved can reduce productivity, erode morale and lead to high staff turnover. To demonstrate to your would-be employer your leadership skills, practice counting down these tips in your current job to help de-escalate any tension that arises.

5. Don’t avoid it. Be aware of certain inevitable situations where conflict will rise, and prepare for ways to solve them. If a co-worker, for example, is constantly making the same mistakes — ones that you have to fix repeatedly — bring the issue up with the co-worker first. And if the discussion does not lead to a change, it should be escalated to a larger discussion with a supervisor. Hiring managers like to see workers take some initiative to solve conflicts before they erupt into problems.

4. Be empathetic. As stressed as you may feel during a workplace conflict, remember that there is at least one other side — sometimes multiple sides — to each story. In the previous conflict scenario, did you try to have the co-worker explain the motivation behind his or her behavior? Perhaps the other person was simply unaware of the mistakes. By forming a dialog built on understanding of both sides, conflicts rarely last longer that a quick discussion.

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3. Keep a cool head. Anger and frustration are natural emotions, but they are terrible states under which to make decisions. If a conflict escalates to the point of anger, it’s important to step back — perhaps take a coffee break or a walk around the block — and calm down before saying anything more. Emotionally charged communication should be nipped in the bud as soon as possible.

2. Aim for resolution, not blame. So many workplace arguments begin and end with who started it, usually without addressing the root cause. Assigning blame is of little use; the main goal is to craft an amicable compromise. Always focus on the actions that led to the problem and establish better communication or processes to prevent it from happening again.

1. Pick your battles. Not every disagreement has to become a federal case. If there’s a conflict that is a one-time occurrence that will have little to no effect on the bottom line, perhaps it’s better to just drop it. As the cartoon princess once said, sometimes you just have to “let it go.”

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at