Examples for Expressing Conflict with a Co-Worker

What Happened?

To resolve a conflict with a co-worker, we first need to separate our judgments from what actually happened. Why is this important? Because our judgments are often made up of old thoughts and feelings that cause us to react, blame and attack the other person. We project our past impressions on to our current situations. See Projections

Attack and blame escalate conflict.

To help you distinguish what happened from our judgments, we have provided some examples below.

Examples of saying What Happened without Blame or Judgment

My co-worker grabbed the hammer out of my hand and said there was no way I was going to be able to straighten out the damage on the wall.

I tried to help a co-worker finish up repairing a wall and he got angry.

Examples of Judgments About What Happened

The guy is a jerk and never gives me a chance to finish what I am doing.

This guy is always jumpy, I was trying to get the job finished and I thought I could repair the wall faster than he could. I am not going to help him out again.

Communicating only what happened without your judgments will allow the other person to hear your side of the conflict without having to go into a defensive mode. No Attack—no defense or counter attack is needed.

How did it make you feel?

In this step you identify how you feel about what happened and express your feelings in a way that allows others to hear them. Identifying how you feel can be difficult because it is easier to get caught in the blame and judgments and not be connected to how you are feeling.

Examples of expressing how you feel about what happened.

When you grabbed the hammer out of my hands I was shocked and angry. I felt disrespected and violated. When you told me there was no way to repair the wall, I felt humiliated and angry.

When I was trying to help you finish up and you got so angry, I felt confused and angry. I also felt misunderstood.

What are your needs in this situation?

Although our co-workers actions or speech may have triggered strong feelings, underneath these feelings are unmet needs. It’s important to realize what your needs are so you can recognize when they are either not responded to or are challenged. In this step we are asking you to identify your needs.

Examples of expressing needs:

I need respect and security at my work site. I need to feel I am being treated as an equal in my relationships with my co-workers and with my bosses.

I need the people I work with to understand my words and actions the way I intended them. I need you to recognize my efforts at helping you to get the job finished.

Here is a list of some needs that arise in relationships and cause conflicts when they are not recognized and not expressed.

Attention: Needing the other person to be focused on and attending to what you’re are saying or doing.

Understanding: Needing others to grasp the intended meaning of your words or actions.

Contingency: Needing others to respond to your actions or words in ways that you expect.

Joining: Needing to be able to share meanings and values with another person or group.

Recognition: Needing others to see and hear you and give value to what you are doing, thinking or feeling.

Respect: Wanting others to listen and respond to your feelings and needs with the sense that they value you and treat you as an individual with your own values and boundaries.

Security: Needing to feel that your environment is safe, that you are protected and do not fear that your boundaries will be violated. Needing to feel that you matter to others, that you are cared for wanted and protected.

Dependability: Needing to feel that you can rely on others and be able to trust that they will act and speak truthfully.

Mutuality: Needing to feel a sense of balance with others that you both are giving and receiving equally.

Connection: Needing to feel on the same page with others. Needing to feel a part of a relationship or group.

Affiliation: Needing to have a sense of belonging. Needing to have friendships and feel part of a group of your peers.

Intimacy: Having a sense of closeness to certain people in your world. Feeling emotionally and physically connected.

Autonomy: Experiencing a need for independence. Wanting to do things on your own and in your own way.

What do you want the other person to understand about this situation or your feelings or needs?


I want you to get that when you grabbed the hammer I felt violated. When you told me I couldn’t do something well, I felt demeaned and humiliated.

I want you to get that I was trying to get the job finished as there was a lot of pressure on me to have it finished by today. I thought I could help finish up your part as it looked to me as if you were in a jam. I did not mean to insult you, because I actually have a lot of respect for you. I was just in a hurry.

What do you request from the other person?

Now that your have expressed yourself, there is an opportunity for you to ask for what you need from the other person. Focus on what you want from them: not what you don’t want. Make your request clear and specific.

It would be easier if you expressed that you were under a lot of pressure and that you thought you could repair the wall faster than me, without saying that "there was no way I could do it." Next time please explain to me what your needs are.

I hope that in the future you remember that I am not on your case. I respect you and I ask that you trust that my actions may not be intended the way you are taking them.

Examples of How to Respond:

An important part of effective communication is to be able to let the other person know that you understand what they are trying to say. If you reflect back accurately, they will experience being heard by you. Often when people are heard, their upset disappears. If you do not reflect back to them accurately the conflict will remain and they will continue to feel unheard. Reflecting back only works if you are communicating what you heard with a sense that you have connected to what they mean and actually understand it.

Reflection continues until both people feel that the other person has understood what they need them to get. If either person does not feel understood, the process needs to repeat until they do.

Reflecting back will:

Some Phrases used in Reflecting Back:

Here are some examples of statements which reflect your understanding back to your co-worker.

I really get that when I grabbed the hammer you felt I violated your space. And that when I said you couldn’t repair the wall, you thought I was being insulting and you felt humiliated.

I understand that you were under pressure to finish the job and that you were trying to do the repair for me because you thought you could get it done faster. I am glad that you have respected me in the past.

How to negotiate a request

There are three choices that the other has to your request.

If the other person doesn't feel they have a choice to either counter-offer or decline your request, then your request is merely a camouflaged demand. Demands almost always elicit resistance or resentment. If they counter-offer or decline your request, be in dialogue with them to negotiate an acceptable response that will work for both of you.

Here are examples of responses to the request from your co-worker:

I accept your request. I will say what I need from you, instead of jumping into a reaction.

I will try to follow your request. I will definitely try to not react in my old way. I will question how I am interpreting your actions.