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How to Manage and Resolve Conflict in the Workplace

Updated: Dec 16, 2022

Conflict is inevitable when people from different backgrounds such as race, ethnicity, gender, culture, and values work together in one place, but it can be managed.

Conflict is the leading cause of stress, frustration, and general sadness, which leads to low productivity and increased absenteeism from work.

Team leaders need to create a safe environment for all employees that is free from discrimination and retaliation. Therefore, when conflicts arise between team members, you should demonstrate conflict resolution skills.

It would be helpful if you ensure that all pent-up emotions are resolved to avoid a toxic workplace that could harm the company.

There can be a variety of situations that lead to disagreements, and some examples might include:

  • A team member may be working under time constraints and refuses to carry out a request from a new colleague who is responding to a customer inquiry. A few years have passed, but there is still tension between the two over the same issue, and now one of them needs help on a new project and the other is not responding.

  • The time difference can sometimes lead to frustration. One colleague may be in a different time zone and send urgent requests to other team members, while they themselves are unavailable and do not know how to respond.

  • Your colleagues might feel distant from you after you get promoted at work, and they can not show their disappointment openly and start other tactics to pull you down, leading to conflict.

  • One of your colleagues bullies and harasses the other, and she remains calm, but her productivity and engagement at work decrease.

Conflict is the leading cause of stress, frustration, and general sadness, which leads to low productivity and increased absenteeism from work. Team leaders need to create a safe environment for all employees that is free from discrimination and retaliation.

Research has shown that workplace conflict should not be taken lightly; workers spend nearly three hours a week mediating their disputes.

Here is a step-by-step guide to conflict resolution that will help managers and HR professionals to better prepare for any workplace conflict scenario.

1. Clarify and understand the cause of the conflict

You need to find out the root cause of the conflict and understand the situation, whether it is personal differences, inappropriate workplace behavior, bullying, lack of communication or unrealistic expectations.

To find out what the disagreement is about, you need to communicate with both parties and ask what needs are not being met that are leading to the conflict.

As HR manager, mediator or supervisor, you need to gather as much information as possible from both sides and interview other team members to understand the situation and find the root cause of the problem.

As a mediator, you can ask a few questions to keep the conversation going.

  • How do you think the conflict started?

  • How do you see the people involved in the problem?

  • How is the conflict negatively impacting your work?

  • What do you suggest to solve the problem?

  • What is the remedy?

2. Create a list of items that both parties can agree on

You should create a list of facts of common interest that both team members can agree on.

Try to find common ground between the parties. Since you have talked to and listened to both sides, you will have a good idea of the points where there is overlap and where both colleagues could agree.

A common goal can lead to much easier problem solving.

As a mediator, you can propose a list of common goals and a plan to reach common ground to improve the situation. This will help both sides see things from the perspective of an unbiased third party, and they may evaluate the situation in a different light.

3. Prepare a meeting for mediation by setting ground rules

There is a risk that disputes will escalate during the meeting because both parties are in each other's way. In order for the mediation session to be successful, you need to establish some ground rules to avoid a disaster.

It is important that you make the parties understand your role as the mediator and assure them that you are unbiased in the whole matter and are not here to judge or give your own opinion.

Some of the rules you can set as a mediator for the meeting are.

  • Wait your turn to speak.

  • Do not interrupt others.

  • Give both parties an equal opportunity to discuss and present their point of view.

  • Avoid using the words "you" and "them" so as not to accuse others.

Make sure all parties have read the rules and confirm that they will abide by them during the meeting.

If you have doubts that the meeting will not help defuse the situation, you can skip it or reschedule it for a later time to allow things to cool down.

4. Discuss different ways and obstacles to reach the common points

Once you have decided to meet, get a healthy discussion going among the team members involved. This step in successfully resolving the conflict is about communicating, brainstorming, and listening to each other's points of view to find ways to reach common ground.

Keep discussing until you have exhausted all possibilities.

You may hit dead ends during the discussion and feel like there is no way out.

But if you properly understand the problem and inform both sides of the issues that cannot be changed about the matter, you will avoid these obstacles.

As a mediator, you must get both sides to agree to the proposed solution and eliminate the cause of the problem so that it does not reoccur.

There are often many ways to solve the problem. Make sure both parties agree to the proposed solution.

5. Keep in touch with the parties involved

According to the Harvard Business Review, it is important to contact the parties involved several weeks after the mediation session.

It is quite possible that they will not adhere to the resolution plan and still hold the same grudges as before. Ask them how they feel about the resolved conflict and whether they feel better about the whole situation.

It is important to coach the affected team members to continue working effectively for the company and put aside the personal conflicts. They could be required to attend training sessions that will help them improve.


Most conflicts can be resolved through the proper application of these steps. However, if the situation does not improve, you can hire an expert external mediator who can resolve the matter professionally.

As a mediator, you must document the entire process and the outcome of the conflict resolution process for the parties involved. You can ask the parties involved for feedback on the process and how to improve it.

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