Stoic Guidance for Handling Workplace Conflict

Recently, while walking through a local bookstore, I stumbled upon a book titled Stoic Wisdom, which piqued my interest in this ancient philosophy. While many believe Stoicism is shorthand for being emotionless, I have learned that it is a vibrant, action-oriented, and paradigm-shifting way of living daily life. As a result of this misconception, academics have made a distinction between Stoicism (with a capital S) and stoicism.

A Stoic believes they don’t control the world around them, only how they respond—and that they must always respond with courage, temperance, wisdom, and justice. Stoicism is a tool in the pursuit of self-mastery, perseverance, and wisdom. Stoics find peace and clarity because Stoicism helps us manage and think through our emotional reactions and makes even the most difficult situations easier to bear. 

Stoicism has a great deal to offer people. It’s the original philosophical inspiration for cognitive-behavioral therapy and offers a way of building emotional resilience, which may reduce the risk of developing anxiety or depression in the first place. It made me wonder, how do Stoics handle conflict in the workplace?

Stoics approach workplace conflict by practicing self-control, focusing on what they can control, and accepting the things they can’t. They courageously engage in conflict resolution; temper their reactions, question their judgments, and try to maintain a rational perspective; wisely seek knowledge and garner facts applicable to the conflict; and aim to justly resolve conflicts to provide the most benefit for all involved. By prioritizing virtue and inner tranquility, Stoics aim to remain calm, seek solutions, and treat others with kindness and understanding during conflicts.

Three tips for handling conflict like a Stoic:

• Practice self-awareness: Be mindful of your emotions and reactions during conflicts. Take a moment to pause and reflect on your feelings before responding impulsively. Stoics believe in examining their own judgments and biases to gain a clearer understanding of the situation.

• Focus on what you can control: Recognize that you cannot control others’ actions or external circumstances, but you can control your responses and attitudes. Choose to respond with reason and virtue, emphasizing inner tranquility and moral integrity.

• Embrace acceptance and detachment: Acknowledge that conflicts are a natural part of life and that not everything will go as planned. Let go of the desire for things to be different and accept the situation as it is. By cultivating detachment from external outcomes, Stoics maintain their equanimity and peace of mind even in the face of conflict.

By: Elizabeth Hill, Associate Director, University of Colorado Boulder and Co-Editor of Ombuzz

2 thoughts on “Stoic Guidance for Handling Workplace Conflict”

  1. Thank you Elizabeth, this was a lovely bit of learning to read in the middle of my day. I have the generic understanding of “stoic” as “toughing it out” but interesting to learn it’s much more complex philosophically and surprisingly contemporary it feels in a mindfulness awareness. I may investigate the book too!

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