14 Conflict Resolution Strategies For the Workplace

One of the most popular topics I hear organizations working on is conflict resolution strategies. Personality is a key component in how you deal with conflict.

Imagine having 3 team members who have been raised in an environment different than yours. Eventually, one will have some kind of conflict. The success of your team depends on your conflict resolution strategy.

It is no secret that losing a productive employee can be a setback for a company. There is some research that suggests that only additional hiring and training expenses and reduction in output can cost a company $40,000.

Why do people leave?

The most common reason that is put forward is “workplace conflict.”

Who with?

With managers as well as with co-workers.

What should be done?

Companies need to address conflicts and have a conflict resolution strategy in place for all employees. The strategy must include conflict resolution, but also prevention. Each organization needs to develop it own conflict resolution process.

Although there is not one best conflict resolution strategy, organizations can set a process to resolve conflict with involved parties to address conflict. Experts recommend laying ground rules and focusing on a constructive conversation to solve conflicts.

Remote teams should use some kind of project management software and multiple communication methods to keep everyone on the same page and avoid conflict.

In this article, I will cover conflict resolution strategy as a broad topic including conflict resolution skills, resolving conflict, and collaboration. A few suggestions from 9 business leaders and HR managers have been collected together to enable others to navigate the murky waters of organizational conflict.

Should Teams Avoid conflict?

Many people think that conflict should be avoided at all costs, but conflict can be productive, especially if you have solid conflict resolution strategies in place. Avoiding involves stepping aside to ignore conflict altogether and not doing anything that may appear threatening. It seems secure but does nothing to solve it. Problems will worsen when ignored. In a team environment, a worker could take a little off the slack of an employee who avoided conflict, leading to disappointment and anger.

If all team members use avoidance techniques, productivity will decrease if problems occur because nobody wants it. It is easy to allow someone to lean towards a conflict resolution style for other parties because they want someone to solve the dispute instead.

There are a few options you may use for dealing with conflict in a work environment. Initially, you can ignore them and let the participants work on this together. This can sometimes be a good thing.

Teamwork requires understanding and cooperation, and the conflict resolution tool is needed in this regard. But if you avoid reprimanding people when they are unhappy or you are afraid of a confrontation, then you’re doing something wrong. You must take responsibility for managing the issue in this regard. Your power comes and you should act where necessary.

How to create better team collaboration in the workplace?

Most successful organizations shift conflict to collaboration in conflict resolution strategies. You can help them to develop a personal relationship to improve productivity in the work environment by working closely with your employees in the process. Some people need more assertiveness and some may require more cooperation.

You are able to be a mediator in the early phase and assist in individual development. In theory, each of these people has a different need. The two think about how to resolve the situation according to their needs. If the two sides agree to adopt this solution, the time will come for implementation.

1) Define acceptable behavior

If you want to prevent a conflict from occurring you need to set a standard behavior at work. If your team is given space to decide the wrong things, they will. But as managers, you have an obligation to set the tone.

It can happen by writing job descriptions, creating a framework of discussion, listing the hierarchy and who is capable of what and specifying good business practices, and selecting the tools for project management. The more the guideline is established, the better the team follows it.

2) The role of managers in conflict resolution

Although the training of employees will help reduce conflict and resolve it you will also play an important role in coordinating and managing conflict. Has anyone ever considered the dangers of conflicting teams? Managers can be leaders in resolving conflict and are often seen as the first person to help in conflict resolution. Organizations need to invest in developing conflict resolution skills for managers.

Success begins when you give clear instruction and ensure your staff understands what you want. Make sure you have as many details when assigning tasks as you can. Keep away from micromanagement. Find the best ways to listen actively.

3) Understanding your team’s makeup

First conflict resolution strategies include getting to a group for discussions on conflict management before problems arise. While workplace disputes are common among employees/managers or employees and clients, the majority are among those who are usually together.

Give everyone an idea of what makes them feel comfortable with conflict. It may be possible to establish common ground.

4) Constructive Criticism

In conflict, the various approaches to each issue are diverse and critical. Sometimes something goes horribly wrong but critique has only a positive effect on things. Whatever the truth is that you criticize others as they work on the same issues tomorrow.

What are the ways of critiquing and leading? That’s a place for constructive criticism. This is a method where we can talk about a situation and lay blame, and support the work. You give a guide for solving problems. It now allows them to stop repeating their mistakes, so nobody has a sense of shame or fear.

Conflict Resolution: How to Handle Conflict

While prevention should be the goal when it does happen, how should it be handled? Give a lot of autonomy to your team to help you decide what rules to follow. The lists are hardly necessary but should cover what coworkers expect of each other in the event of trouble.

Set that up early so that everyone doesn’t lose their temper for the event. It is also advisable not to use “you” or “they.” This usually precedes the statement of fault. Rather, a team member who is more interested in saying “I'” can take control on their own and narrow down to their solution. Similarly, a basic rule could be to just concentrate on a specific problem without citing examples of previous similar cases.

1) Don’t Avoid Workplace Conflict

Conflict is part of the human constitution; inevitable on occasion even though steps might be taken to avert it. Looking the other way will not make it go away. If it happens, it has to be faced head-on. It is part of the job of leaders in a company to tackle situations of conflict fairly and swiftly.

According to Stuart Hearn, CEO of Clear Review, “Conflict should be addressed head-on before it has the opportunity to escalate and become toxic.”

2) Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Everyone has a perspective. Sometimes perspectives clash and conflict erupts. Leaders need to put themselves in the shoes of the people in the situation of conflict and then take a call on the right thing to do.

Shaun Bradley, Director of People at Perkbox suggests, “You will never get to truly understand the motive behind the conflict if you’re not able to put yourself in their shoes.”

3) Stick to the Facts

While everyone has feelings and opinions, not everyone has, or can produce facts. Amicability and agreeability may be desirable, but not always possible in conflict resolution. It is important to rely on facts, to the extent possible, in reaching decisions regarding a conflict, any conflict.

Paul Russell, Director of Luxury Academy London has a suggestion: “Where a mutually acceptable outcome isn’t possible, make decisions that are grounded in fairness and understanding.”

4) Focus on the Lesson

Every non-standard situation is an opportunity for change. A conflict is one such. It provides an opportunity for delving into issues that may otherwise be left untouched. How this issue could be resolved for the long-term benefit of the company should be the goal.

Simona Frumen, Conflict Resolution Expert and Mediator has this to say: “Focus on what would you do differently next time, so you would prevent such situation from happening.”

Preventing conflict

Prevention is better than cure is an adage we are all familiar with. Most organizations will have to resolve conflict, but it is great if their conflict resolution strategy starts with prevention. Here are five conflict resolution strategies by experts in successful conflict resolution before it starts.

1) Understand Each Other’s Personality Type

People communicate and work differently that may cause conflict. Organizations that invest in DISC or Myers-Briggs training can help resolve conflict by understanding each team member’s personality. Dr. Christie Cooper provides a great chart on DISC personalities and resolving conflict.

2) Communicate Business Values

To attain alignment in the thought process of the workforce, it is important to create and reinforce company values, that should be seen as the guiding light for decisions. Consistent, regular communication around these values will reduce the scope of conflict.

Sarah Brown, Co-founder of inspire2aspire says, “If values are unclear there will be conflict because people will not be sure what makes them a hero or a villain in the organization.”

3)Positive Employee Relations

Conflict tends to erupt in situations of ambiguity. Establishing fair, transparent management systems and processes goes a long way in reducing opportunities for conflict. Organizations investing in a culture of positive employee relations, promoting attributes like respect for people, experience less conflict.

Jerome Forde, Forde HR Cloud opines that “Positive Employee Relations can be an intangible and enduring asset, a source of sustained competitive advantage.”

5) Lead by Example

Equipping leadership teams to not only resolve situations of conflict but also to create an environment in their teams that promotes fairness, transparency, and mutual respect creates a harmonious working environment,

Gavin White, Managing Director at Autotech Recruit advises companies to “Invest in training programs for your senior staff to learn about how to handle difficult conversations.”

6) Praise and Training

Finally, senior management has to set the right example. Little things like team lunches and well-being workshops and other group activities, all add up.

Emily Gray, Founding Director of Bain & Gray would like companies to “Give the team achievable incentives to meet group targets and reward them for working together effectively.”


Katie Sullivan

Katie is a digital nomad and business consultant. She has a bachelor's degree in business and has in the last 15 years in both the private and non-profit sectors. Her passion is helping people become better themselves and in turn creating better businesses. When she isn't chasing around her twin boys, she loves reading and gardening. She can be reached at [email protected]

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