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3 minute read

Fighting Fires at Work: A 3-Step Guide to Professionally Manage Workplace Conflicts

It might be easy to lose your head when you’re confronted with sudden, unpleasant surprises at work. Here’s how you can keep your cool and remain professional to avoid burning any bridges.


Firefighting at work isn’t uncommon, regardless of where you work. Occasional bouts of miscommunication between stakeholders will surface as a problem for almost every employee at some point.

To have your tasks run smoothly, you’ll need to fight such fires effectively. Here’s some advice on how to do so.

What is “firefighting at work”?

At its core, firefighting is a reactive management style that focuses on correcting problems as they crop up.

Before you start viewing it negatively, keep in mind that some fires can’t be avoided, and can still happen even with preventive measures such as good foresight and standard operating procedures in place – cybersecurity attacks resulting in stolen information would be one such example. Such unforeseen circumstances must still be addressed appropriately and professionally.

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#1: Stay calm and understand the situation

Most of the time, your feelings of panic stem from a lack of information, coupled with the urgency from relatively short timeframes to solve problems. One of the best ways to keep cool and tackle an issue effectively is to first gather as much information as you can.

Not only will it help you better deal with the brunt of the problem, but it also gives you some breathing space to get your emotions under control.

Tip: Problems are finite and tend to be specific to your industry, so keep your focus narrowed.

#2: Use all available resources

Whether you work for a multinational corporation or a small- to medium-sized enterprise, chances are that you have some resources at your disposal. Don’t be afraid to maximise these to help you deal with the problem as efficiently as possible.

For instance, if a cyberattack has penetrated your company’s firewall and implicated customer accounts, don’t immediately resort to sending out panicked emails to those affected. Instead, you can approach the person in charge of cybersecurity and ask them to clearly articulate the issue and proposed solutions, before brainstorming suitable communication methods with your team.

Tip: Remember that you are not fighting the fire alone; relying on your teammates can help to alleviate the pressure.

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#3: Keep an eye on the time

Don’t be too busy with fighting the fire at the expense of your other tasks! Your planned tasks may be just as important as the urgent issue you’re dealing with, so be sure to carve out time to address them as well.

Moreover, turning your attention away from the fire for a while can give you a chance to regroup and decompress after a period of high stress.

Tip: Your colleagues will understand if you need to leave the situation for a while – they’ve likely had their own share of encounters with firefighting as well.

While being able to firefight is a crucial skill in today’s fast-paced business landscape, it doesn’t have to be a panic-filled process with these tips to help you keep calm and carry on.

This article is contributed by gradsingapore.

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