How to Resolve Conflicts with Colleagues via Email

co-workers-colleagueA good working relationship fosters a friendly and suitable environment and often in turn affects our job satisfaction. This is one reason to quickly resolve conflict with a member of the team at work. Not only does an unsettled matter affect your job satisfaction, it also has an adverse effect on your productivity and that of the team in general.

Important Notes

In dealing with and resolving a conflict via email, here are the things to note;

  • You may have to resolve a misunderstanding with a colleague one-on-one but in cases whereby you want to set up this meeting, it may be necessary to use electronic media.
  • In cases whereby you need to document your interaction with the other party, sending an email could be expedient.
  • You have the advantage of thinking through what you communicate before hitting the ‘send’ button.

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Limitations

The limitation of resolving/managing conflicts via email cannot be overlooked. The electronic media generally is not the best way to resolve heated matters. However, there are instances whereby one-on-one confrontation is not possible.

You need to be aware of the following

  • Communication is the only tool used in resolving conflicts. It comprises of the non-verbal and the verbal aspects. The facial expression, the tone of the voice, kinesis (distance) and all the other body languages are missing when using electronic media. You may need to heavily rely on the verbal (written) aspect to communicate. The person(s) at the other end will have to draw all conclusions from what you have written and will not have access to your facial expression or tone of voice to fully comprehend you.
  • It is possible that since the party you are communicating with cannot decode your non-verbal cues, he will have to draw inferences from past communication experiences you have had with him, especially if it is a one-on-one experience. He may need to put like a missing block the aspects of non-verbal communication from his perspective of you. The way he perceives you. This is one of the disadvantages of using email to communicate long-standing conflicts.
  • Words and their usage could easily be misinterpreted just like in normal physical interaction. In cases of one-on-one interactions, you have higher chances of easily noticing when you are misunderstood and can rectify it because you get your feedback almost immediately. But in communicating via email and other electronic media, feedbacks are not gotten instantly like physical interaction.

The Process

Resolving a conflict with a colleague through the use of email can be the only way out in some cases. The way out is to follow the general rule as long as your sole purpose is to settle the heated matter.

  • Be courteous. Being polite is a reflection of your personality and has nothing to do with the behavior or manner of the other person.
  • Be professional and use formal language in your interaction via mail.
  • State the person’s point of view clearly to let them know you understand what they are trying to communicate. At times, the other party may just derive satisfaction in the fact that he has been heard. While you may not agree with every opinion, it is important to show people you respect them as individuals and that their opinions are also seen that way.
  • In cases whereby you may have to state why the colleague’s point of view, opinion or idea is not going to be adopted, you may need to emphasize on the fact that such expressed view is appreciated.
  • There are situations whereby it is important not to state why you do not agree with the person. You may just let them be aware of the fact that their different opinion is respected, taken note of and appreciated. The personality and past experiences with the person in question determine this.
  • The focus of your email is to voice how much regard you have for the colleague. Many people will not go on brewing issues with someone they perceive admires them. It is possible to have regard for someone you do not share the same perspective with. Diversity is what makes us human. This is crucial. Conflicts are often easily resolved when you show the other party that you have taken note and you have regard for them and what they think. You, however, do not have to agree.
  • Find a common ground that you agree on if there is any and focus more on that. When your email is focused on the area where you agree, you tend to douse the heat created by the conflict.
  • In cases whereby you strongly disagree with every opinion, start with the ones you agree with first.
  • Because the conflict is work related, do not make the matter personal. Ensure to leave it at the professional level. It creates a mutual respect, even when you are on first name basis with the other party. For example, do not write;

MY department CANNOT attend to the issue”, instead write; “THE department WILL NOT BE ABLE TO attend to the issue”.

By using the definite article ‘THE’ instead of the possessive pronoun ‘MY’, you have successfully dissociated yourself and interests from what you are communicating.

SAMPLE 1: Resolving Conflicts with Colleagues via Email

Dear Mr Brown,

…I appreciate your concern expressed about the time you believe the trucks should move from the city to deliver the goods. There are, however, numerous challenges the department is facing which are making it almost difficult to meet the target set by the Sales Department. Some of these complaints have been forwarded and will be sent again to the Maintenance Unit.

The goals set by the Sales Department are quite laudable and possible to realize. We hope to meet this demand…

SAMPLE 2:  Resolving Conflicts with Colleagues via Email

Hello Mrs Hamilton,

…I agree that the use of buses to transport bottles to the depot will bring about lesser losses of our most valued materials.  Also, the maintenance of our trucks should be given more consideration, since this will help the transportation department to function better.

I understand and appreciate your suggestions as regards how things can be done appropriately in the department.  The team has also considered adjustments which can be made to effectively work in synergy with other teams.  Your points have been duly noted ma…


Edited by Kelechi Duru

Profile photo of Teju Duru

Teju Duru

Contributor at Woculus
Teju Duru is a communication expert and freelance writer based in Ibadan.
Profile photo of Teju Duru
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