How to Resolve Conflict in the Workplace


Tracy Givens

Aug 20, 2022


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Human Resources

When you have several strong personalities working together, conflict is inevitable. But through effective communication, you can help your workers find common ground. Here's our ultimate guide on how to resolve conflict in the workplace.

Why It's Important

When workers aren't getting along, the entire establishment suffers.

The employees who are directly involved in the conflict aren't happy, which can affect the co-workers they're closest to. This may create a snowball effect, leading to dissatisfied workers across many departments. If the managers aren't skilled at dealing with conflict, they're also bound to become frustrated.

What's worse, this malaise may eventually taint your entire brand. If you cannot deal with the problem at the root level, it could affect how customers perceive you. Needless to say, that won't be good for business.

How To Resolve Conflict in the Workplace

Manager stopping a conflict between two employees

Here are our primary tips on conflict resolution. The more experience you have in this regard, the smoother your ride will be.

Foster Communication

First and foremost, you want to encourage strong and direct lines of communication between your workers. This includes—but is not limited to—interaction with management and senior-level staff.

Make your employees aware that a constructive conversation should be the first step when dealing with workplace conflicts. Encourage them to listen to what the other person has to say, identify the points of conflict, and then come to an agreement on how best to handle the problem.

Train the members of your human resources department to listen keenly when a worker approaches them with an issue. Create a flow chart to help them formulate the appropriate responses in any given situation. If you've hired skilled professionals, they may not need the extra guidance, but a little bit of education never hurt anyone.

Delay Your Response

This might make it sound like you're attempting to ignore the problem, but that's not the goal here. Instead, you're ensuring you've had a chance to examine the issue from all sides before passing judgment.

In essence, response delay is akin to calling a time-out. If you were to dive right into conflict resolution, tempers might still be running high. Giving everyone time to breathe and gather their thoughts will help you resolve the problem more efficiently.

Focus on Events and Behavior

Manager discussing a conflict between two employees

Earlier, we mentioned strong personalities, but when you're actively working to resolve conflict, you don't want to focus on those.

When you bring up an individual's personal traits, they're likely to feel attacked. That's not conducive to conflict resolution and may even cause the worker to resign. If you're working to solve the problem, that's likely not your desired outcome.

Start by talking about the issue itself. From simple misunderstandings to blogger problems to conflicts over vendors, there are numerous ways for employees to become annoyed with one another. Once you've determined exactly what happened, you'll be able to see all sides of the problem.

Next, instead of pointing out the employee's personality traits, focus instead on what specific behaviors triggered the problematic event. Perhaps you can suggest an alternative behavior that might yield stronger results in the future.

Create Documentation

Woman documenting in paper

This might not be your favorite aspect of the process, but it's a good idea to document any workplace incidents as they occur. That way, you'll have something to refer to if a similar situation crops up in the future. Unpleasant as it might sound, the records will also come in handy if a present or former employee ever attempts to take you to court.

The devil is in the details, so be sure to include the following:

  1. Names of the parties involved
  2. Time and date of the conflict
  3. Notes on any conversations that were held regarding the issue (including the ones that the workers may have had among themselves)
  4. Any disciplinary meetings or actions that might have taken place

If you find certain employees cropping up in these files regularly, it might be time to question whether they're a good fit for the company.

Consult The Handbook

Now is the perfect time to draw one up if you don't already have a comprehensive employee handbook.

In addition to providing employees with information about company policies and benefits, a handbook can serve as a useful primer for resolving conflict in the workplace. This should be broken up into subsections with tips on avoiding conflict, what employees can expect when encountering a problem, what action they should take next, and so on.

It's also vital to include information about what's considered acceptable workplace behavior and what actions and deeds are not acceptable. That will make it easier for you to mete out any necessary disciplinary action, as the rules and consequences are spelled out on paper.

Find a Solution

Once everyone has determined the root cause of the problem and identified their roles in it, it's time to find the solution that works best for all involved. When employees know that they're working toward the common goal of creating a more harmonious environment, they're more likely to cooperate in this exercise.

Everyone must agree on this solution; otherwise, some parties might feel slighted and resentful. That's another reason why vivid communication is so important.

Create Troubleshooting Strategies

Woman showing a paper

Just because you've found a working solution for one workplace conflict doesn't mean that similar issues won't arise again. You'll need a troubleshooting strategy in place just in case that ever happens.

Follow up with employees to ensure that the solution you've developed is working in the long term. Problem-solving is a day-to-day issue in any working environment, and you need to make any necessary adaptations to ensure that all is running smoothly.

Think about what lessons can be learned from this particular situation. In addition to forming a foundation you can rely on if the problem reoccurs, this exercise will help you hone your conflict management skills.

In Conclusion

The bottom line? Having a solid strategy in place—and encouraging active listening—can go a long way toward resolving workplace conflict.

Your goal is to determine what caused the issue, encourage the parties involved to talk it out and find a solution, then take steps to determine whether the issue has truly been resolved. It might sound simple, but it's surprising how many businesses have difficulty with this aspect of employee management.

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