Conflict Resolution in the Workplace for Managers

Managers are responsible for a wide range of duties, like scheduling, employee motivation, budget oversight and performance assessment. Managers must also mediate employee conflict when necessary. Learn why conflict resolution is important and how to manage it to lead your team successfully.


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Importance of conflict resolution in the workplace

Conflict resolution is vital for managers because it helps maintain a positive, comfortable environment for all employees. Managing conflict quickly and effectively demonstrates to employees you care about their well-being and the positive culture of the workplace. The benefits of resolving conflict include:

      • Limiting work disruptions
      • Increasing productivity
      • Higher rates of project success
      • Lowered absenteeism
      • Minimal turnover
      • Decreased termination 

Related: What Are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Manager?


How to manage conflict effectively

Follow these steps to appropriately and effectively manage conflict on your team:


1. Set a meeting

Begin by setting a meeting with all parties involved in the conflict. This meeting should be private, but it should also involve everyone included in the issue. 


2. Explain both sides

Have both parties explain their side of the conflict using reflective “I” language rather than critical “you” language. Ask each person to use factual wording and avoid hurtful accusations. 


3. Restate and clarify

Once both sides have spoken, ask each party to summarize the opposing party’s account. This helps both sides see the conflict from the other point of view and hopefully encourage empathy.


4. Stay focused

Sometimes, the parties involved in the conflict want to discuss tangential problems during the conflict resolution meeting. Stay focused on discussing one conflict at a time. If the meeting starts to go off topic, gently guide the conversation back to the initial issue.


5. Summarize the conflict

Once both sides have related their view of the conflict and restated the opposing view, summarize the conflict in straightforward, factual language. Make sure you address each point of the conflict clearly and from both sides. Ask the participants if they agree with your summary before moving on. 


6. Find agreement

Work together to find an area of agreement within the conflict. This could be something like, “We all agree that we must resolve this issue as quickly as possible.” Finding a point of accordance helps to align all affected parties as a team moving forward in the resolution process.


7. Brainstorm solutions

Work as a team to make a list of possible solutions to the conflict. Mediate and add suggestions when necessary, but try to get the participants to do the bulk of the work. Find a solution that everyone can agree on. 


8. Create an action plan

Once you’ve selected a solution, create an action plan for moving forward. Everyone in the room should know what’s expected of them at the close of the meeting. Make sure all parties are clear on the next steps to avoid confusion and further conflict. 


9. Implement the plan and schedule a check-in 

Implement the action plan and set a meeting to check back in after a week or so. Make sure that the action plan is working and  that they have resolved the conflict during that follow-up meeting. 


Tips for improving conflict resolution skills

Use these tips to develop your conflict resolution skills:

      • Practice mediation. Ask a couple of friends to act out a fake conflict so you can practice mediating. The more practice you get, the more natural it will become. 
      • Recognize that it’s normal. Remember that conflict is a normal part of life, and you should expect it in the workplace. Normalizing it for yourself and your team helps make managing conflict also feel ordinary. 
      • Stay levelheaded. Even if emotions are high between the conflicting parties, you should remain calm. Model respectful, moderated behavior for the participants. 
      • Respect both sides. Even if you personally agree with one party more than the other in a conflict, you should aim to remain neutral during the mediation. Show you care about and respect all parties involved. 
      • Speak calmly. When summarizing the conflict, avoid emotional language that may escalate the conflict further. Speak factually and minimize emotions.
      • Make acceptable behavior clear. Be clear with your employees about what is acceptable behavior in the workplace and what is not.
      • Stay unbiased. Make all participants feel listened to and respected during the mediation. Try not to make any of the parties feel ashamed of their actions. 


Conflict resolution FAQs

Managers often have questions about conflict resolution in the workplace. Here are some of the most common frequently asked questions to help you better understand conflict management.


What are the possible causes of conflict in the workplace?

Workplace conflict can develop in a number of ways. Some of the most common examples of workplace conflicts include:

      • Misunderstanding. This could include a misunderstanding of intentions, expectations, priorities or other job-related elements. 
      • Poor communication. A lack of proper communication could be between employees, leadership and employees or customers and employees. 
      • Lack of planning. This can lead to high levels of stress and unease as employees struggle to adapt to an ever-changing workplace. 
      • Unsatisfactory staffing. Sometimes, employees aren’t quite the right fit for a business. Determine if there are any employees that might negatively impact the overall morale of the workforce. 
      • Stressors. Feeling unmotivated or underappreciated can lead employees to conflict over minor issues with other employees. Make sure all employees feel properly acknowledged for the work they do at your company.

You can proactively address many of these causes of conflict through creating a positive workplace culture, making sure communication channels are clear, planning effectively for the future, working with HR to hire excellent candidates and providing employees with resources to help navigate stressors. 


What are the strategies for managing workplace conflict? 

Managers often rely on a few strategies to mediate conflict between employees. Some of the best strategies to use include:

    • Compromising: Both parties let go of certain demands to meet everyone’s needs in a way that was not originally intended but still satisfies everyone.
    • Accommodating: One party decides that the other party’s needs are more important than their own. 
    • Collaborating: Both parties work together to create a solution that meets everyone’s needs.
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