4 Ways to Resolve a Conflict That Won’t Go Viral and Get You Fired!

HR insights and tips with Jeff Havens

Hello, and welcome to another installment of HR Intervention!  This one comes to us courtesy of an unnamed gas station employee in Michigan. He got mad at his boss for being late to work, which might not have been such a big deal except that he was the only employee there, just finished a night shift, and she was his replacement. He waited for an hour, and when she still hadn’t shown up he did what all of us would do – wrote an angry note about how incompetent she was, taped it to the door, and went home.

And then his note went viral, and then it became a minor sensation, and then he got fired for bringing way too much unwanted attention to his gas station. Whoops! (Here’s more of the story if you’d like to read it.)

Now to be fair, we don’t really know the full story. Perhaps his boss is a chronically late, thoroughly incompetent manager, and perhaps the employee who wrote the note hates everybody and had racked up 95 other reasons to be fired. We’ll probably never know, which is really too bad because I’m pretty sure all of us will form our own opinions about what the real truth is. Hurray for rushing to judgment without all the information!

But we don’t need all the details to know that this is probably not the best way to handle problems. So here are four quick tips to help make sure your next conflict doesn’t make you into an unhappily unemployed internet sensation:

Address the Problem In Private

I like to think of myself as a calm and rational person. But if you loudly berate me in front of a lot of people, there’s a decent chance I’m going to eventually throw a chair at your head.

So keep your issues contained to the people you have them with, or else get really good at ducking.

Try Not to Start the Whole Thing With Condescending Anger

Did you read the guy’s note? Not the nicest of first sentences.

I don’t care how angry you are; you are far less likely to get what you want if you start everything off by calling the other person an idiot.

Offer a Possible Solution to the Problem

Last I checked, the “I’m taking my ball and going home” argument didn’t play well outside of elementary school.

Having a potential solution at least gives the two of you something to talk about. What you agree to might not be what you initially suggested, but I’d bet anything that you get at least some of what you want.

Address the Problem In Private

Oops, did I mention this one already? Sorry! I wonder why I decided not to delete this once I realized I’d already said it. There must be some reason for it. Weird.

And that ought to do it. Follow these simple rules, and get ready to enjoy a lifetime of boring, non-newsworthy, productive, boring conflicts. Or you can disagree with me and write an angry tirade online about how dumb and worthless I am. But if you do that, please do me a favor and misspell at least one word. Your blind rage is much more likely to trend if there’s sumpin misspelt in thar.

Learn more tried and true ways to deal with conflict at work with this free Conflict Management guide:

Jeff Havens is a speaker, author, and professional development expert who tackles leadership, generational, and professional development issues with an exceptional blend of content and entertainment. He is a contributing writer to Fast Company, Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal; and has been featured on CNBC and Fox Business. For more information, or to bring Jeff to your next meeting, call 309-808-0884, email, or visit


Speaker, Author and Professional Development Expert