Best Practices for Resolving Conflict in the Workplace

When left unchecked, workplace conflict is costly—to the tune of $359 billion, according to one study. Employee disputes have the potential to interrupt operations, decrease productivity, and damage employee morale—all of which affect an organizations bottom line.

Business leadership and human resource management play key roles in making sure this doesn’t happen. These supervisors are the ones in charge of implementing and enforcing a company’s conflict resolution strategies, as well as mediating workplace disputes when necessary.

If you aspire to be a leader in your organization or are already in the process of becoming one, putting out the fires and avoiding conflict between feuding employees will likely fall to you. In fact, a study by the American Management Association (AMA) found that managers spend 24% of their time resolving conflict. It’s no easy task, but with the right tools and education, you’ll be able to handle it head on.

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How to Handle Conflict in the Workplace
  1. Talk with the other person. …
  2. Focus on behavior and events, not on personalities. …
  3. Listen carefully. …
  4. Identify points of agreement and disagreement. …
  5. Prioritize the areas of conflict. …
  6. Develop a plan to work on each conflict. …
  7. Follow through on your plan. …
  8. Build on your success.

Why There’s So Much Conflict at Work and What You Can Do to Fix It | Liz Kislik | TEDxBaylorSchool

How to resolve workplace conflict

Everyone will likely face conflict at work at some point in their career. It could be a minor disagreement over where to order lunch or a major conflict over the best way to structure a huge project. No matter the cause, effective conflict resolution is a must. Use these steps to help you resolve any issues you might face at work:

1. Evaluate the situation

Start by evaluating the situation on your own. Consider if your actions or behavior could be causing any of the conflict. Make a list of whats bothering you, including, if applicable, your own actions. Try to look at the situation objectively and think about what you specifically you need to address with the other party and hope to change.

2. Address the conflict early

Once youve noticed the issue and taken the time to examine it on your own, reach out to the other party for a conversation. The sooner you discuss and resolve the problem, the less likely it is to grow into a major issue that takes a toll on your productivity or wellbeing.

3. Set a private meeting

Whenever possible, have your conflict resolution meeting in a private place. If you feel youd both benefit from a third-party mediator, invite them to join you. The more private the meeting, however, the more honest and open about their feelings everyone involved can be without fear of judgement from a watching crowd.

4. Watch your body language

Your body language often says just as much to the person youre conversing with as your words do. Ensure your body language is positive and open by focusing on these elements:

5. Express your feelings

In many cases, conflict arises from hurt feelings rather than a disagreement over facts of figures. When in your conflict resolution meeting, use “I” language that describes how you feel, like, “I felt embarrassed when you pointed out the error I made on the spreadsheet,” rather than “you” language that could cause the other party to feel criticized. Whenever possible, use yourself as the subject of the sentence to avoid the other party feeling as if youre attacking them.

6. Find the problem

While some conflicts are a matter of single incident, others are ongoing, and often involve indiscretions by all parties involved. No matter how pervasive or intense the conflict is, take the time to ask the other people involved how they feel. Ensure everyone has the opportunity to share how they feel in order to identify the true cause of the conflict.

7. Listen to the other party

When the other party is sharing, use active listening skills to ensure you truly hear them and process what theyre saying. When active listening, you are:

8. Seek a solution

After everyone involved in the conflict has had the opportunity to share their feelings and comment on the problem, work together to find a solution to the conflict. In some cases, a sincere apology is all thats needed. In others, youll need to collaborate to find a creative solution that satisfies all parties.

9. Establish a plan

If needed, create an action plan to avoid continued disruptions and discomfort from the conflict. If youre having trouble creating a plan on your own, consider asking a third party to help you structure a series of action steps that helps both parties feel heard and understood.

Why is it important to resolve workplace conflict?

Besides the obvious discomfort conflict can cause, there are several other reasons why its necessary to mediate and resolve any workplace conflicts you encounter as quickly as possible:

Tips for effective conflict resolution

Use these tips to help you effectively manage conflict with your colleagues at work:


What are the four 4 steps in resolving conflict at work?

4 steps To resolve Conflict: CARE
  1. Communicate. Open communication is key in a dispute. …
  2. Actively Listen. Listen to what the other person has to say, without interrupting. …
  3. Review Options. Talk over the options, looking for solutions that benefit everyone. …
  4. End with a Win-Win Solution.

What are the 5 main conflict resolution strategies?

According to the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), used by human resource (HR) professionals around the world, there are five major styles of conflict management—collaborating, competing, avoiding, accommodating, and compromising.

What are 3 tips to resolving conflict?

7 Tips for Handling Conflict In Your Relationship
  1. Create a welcoming environment for open communication. …
  2. Maintain a calm and respectful demeanor during heated conversations. …
  3. Watch out for arguments that stem from a need for control. …
  4. Find some middle-ground. …
  5. Agree to disagree and choose your battles.

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