How to manage conflict

Learn about some practical strategies you can use to handle conflict in the workplace.

1. Talk with the other person.

  • Ask the other person to name a time when it would be convenient to meet.
  • Arrange to meet in a place where you won’t be interrupted.

2. Focus on behavior and events, not on personalities.

  • Say “When this happens …” instead of “When you do …”
  • Describe a specific instance or event instead of generalizing.

3. Listen carefully.

  • Listen to what the other person is saying instead of getting ready to react.
  • Avoid interrupting the other person.
  • After the other person finishes speaking, rephrase what was said to make sure you understand it.
  • Ask questions to clarify your understanding.

4. Identify points of agreement and disagreement.

  • Summarize the areas of agreement and disagreement.
  • Ask the other person if he or she agrees with your assessment.
  • Modify your assessment until both of you agree on the areas of conflict.

5. Prioritize the areas of conflict.

  • Discuss which areas of conflict are most important to each of you to resolve.

6. Develop a plan to work on each conflict.

  • Start with the most important conflict.
  • Focus on the future.
  • Set up future meeting times to continue your discussions.

7. Follow through on your plan.

  • Stick with the discussions until you’ve worked through each area of conflict.
  • Maintain a collaborative, “let’s-work-out-a-solution” attitude.

8. Build on your success.

  • Look for opportunities to point out progress.
  • Compliment the other person’s insights and achievements.
  • Congratulate each other when you make progress, even if it’s just a small step. Your hard work will pay off when scheduled discussions eventually give way to ongoing, friendly communication.

Conflict Management

  • About
  • Handling Workplace Conflict
  • Interacting With Difficult People
  • Responding to Complaints or Grievances


Conflict is not a strange thing for people. Human beings experience it in their day-to-day lives – with their friends, families, and more so their professional lives. In the workplace, conflict causes a massive degree of frustration, pain, discomfort, sadness, as well as anger. It is a normal life aspect. In the world of today, organizations hire employees from diverse geographical locations with dissimilar cultural and intellectual backgrounds, as well as various viewpoints. In a working environment where people have disparate outlooks toward the same problems, disagreements are bound to happen.

Stop Conflict Before it Begins with
a Culture of “Thank You”

Conflicts are inevitable in a person’s day-to-day life. And when they happen, the idea is not to try to prevent them but rather to resolve and manage them in an effective manner. When people use the appropriate tools of resolution to address issues, they will be able to keep their differences from rising to major problems. “Establishing conflict management processes in a company is fundamental as it helps reduce conflict instances among employees,” says Casper Hansen, an expert in resume writing from Resumethatworks. Conflict resolution is integral in the corporate world as it helps to distinguish a good business from a bad one. So, as a business owner, what steps should you follow to resolve a conflict? Well, below are some ways through which you can manage and resolve conflict in the workplace.

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1. Clarify what is the source of conflict

The first step in resolving conflict is clarifying its source. Defining the cause of the conflict will enable you to understand how the issue came to grow in the first place. Additionally, you will be able to get both parties to consent to what the disagreement is. And to do so, you need to discuss the needs which are not being met on both sides of the issues. Also, you need to warranty mutual understanding. Ensure you obtain as much information as possible on each side’s outlook. Continue asking questions until you are confident that all the conflicting parties understand the issue.

2. Find a safe and private place to talk

Many people often wonder and ask, “What is an approach to solving problems peacefully?” To have a constructive conversation, you need to find an environment that is safe for you to talk to. Such a place also enables you to take the necessary risks for honest communication regarding the issues at hand.

So, before trying to resolve any issue, find a safe and private place to talk. Do not choose the office of either party or a location near them. And while at this place, ensure that each party gets enough time to air out their views regarding the matter.

3. Listen actively and let everyone have their say

After getting both parties to meet in a secure and private place, let each of them have the opportunity to air out their views and perceptions regarding the issue at hand. Give each party equal time to express their thoughts and concerns without favoring the other. Embrace a positive and assertive approach while in the meeting. If necessary, set ground rules. Taking this approach will encourage both these parties to articulate their thoughts in an open and honest manner as well as comprehend the causes of the conflict and identify solutions.

4. Investigate the situation

After listening to the concerns of both parties, take time, and investigate the case. Do not prejudge or come up with a final verdict on the basis of what you have. Dig deeper and find out more about the happenings, involved parties, the issues, and how people are feeling. Have an individual and confident conversation with those involved and listen in a keen manner to ensure you comprehend their viewpoints. You can do so by summarizing their statements and replicating them back to them. Also, try finding any underlying conflict sources which may not be evident or noticeable at fast.

5. Determine ways to meet the common goal

When managing conflict processes, you need to have a common objective, which is resolving the issue and ensuring it does not resurface. And to solve any problem, you need to be aware of the different stages of conflict. This will enable you to look for the ideal ways to meet the common goal. After clarifying the source of conflict, talking to both parties, and investigating the situation, you need to sit down with both parties and discuss the common ways you can execute to meet the common goal, which is managing and resolving the matter at hand. Listen, communicate and brainstorm together until you exhaust all options. According to the team lead of Edu Jungles writing company — Kevin Smith, find the source of conflict is the main step to solve any problem.

6. Agree on the best solution and determine the responsibilities each party has in the resolution

Managing and resolving conflict leaps model of communication. Employees will find it easy to interact with another as they understand that they have one goal, which is meeting the company’s objectives. So, after investigating the situation and determine ways through which you can resolve the issue, both parties need to develop a conclusion on the best solution for the problem. And to agree on the best, you need to identify the solutions which each party can live with. Find common ground. Afterward, determine the responsibilities each party has in resolving the conflict. Also, it is crucial to use this chance to identify the root cause and ensure this issue will not come about again.

7. Evaluate how things are going and decide preventative strategies for the future

Never presume that the issue is resolute. Effective communication ought to dominate in the business. So, ask yourself, “What is the second step of effective communication?” Knowing this will help you ensure that the employees are working together to meet the organizational goals. So, continue keeping an eye on the issue and assess if the solution is effective. If the issue resurfaces, take necessary action.

Introduction to Conflict in the Workplace
(and How it Erodes Productivity & Culture)

Also, decide on preventative strategies for the future. Many people often ask, “What is the basic conflict in everyday use?” Some people may not agree on everything, and this may be an issue. So, look for lessons you can learn from the conflict and how you handle it. This will help you know what you can do when the issue resurfaces as well as enable you to develop and nurture your conflict management skills by training.

In conclusion, conflict is part of our day-to-day lives. You can disagree with your family, friends, or coworkers. But, there are various conflict resolution steps you can embrace to ensure this issue is not manageable. Managing and resolving conflict at work is integral in meeting organizational goals. So, if you have any problems or there are disagreements between your employers, look for ideal ways you can manage this situation. Above are some tips and techniques you can use to learn how to solve conflicts in the workplace.

About Author: Allen Cranston is an analyst and resume writer. Allen committed to helping talented professionals show the world what he is truly capable of. Since launching in 2012, Allen has helped over 4,000 job applicants land their dream jobs for Resume That Works. He is constantly looking for new ways to help people achieve their career goals.

Accept conflict. Remember that conflict is natural and happens in every ongoing relationship. Since conflict is unavoidable we must learn to manage it. Conflict is a sign of a need for change and an opportunity for growth, new understanding, and improved communication. Conflict can not be resolved unless it is addressed with the appropriate individual(s).

Be a calming agent. Regardless of whether you are being a sounding board for a friend or you are dealing with your own conflict, your response to the conflict can escalate or decrease the intensity of the problem. To be calming, provide an objective or neutral point of view. Help plan how you are going to work with the other party to achieve resolution.

Listen actively. Work through how you feel, what the specific problem is and what impact it is having on you. Use I -based statements to help do this (see formula below).

  • I feel (strongest feeling)
  • When you (objective description of the behavior)
  • Because (specific impact or consequences)
  • I would like (what you want the person to do in the future to prevent the problem)

Analyze the conflict. This will help clarify the specific problem. Some questions that you may ask are:

  • What triggered the conflict?
  • Who are you angry with?
  • What are you not getting that you want?
  • What are you afraid of losing?
  • Is your conflict/anger accurate or over exaggerated?
  • How can your conflict be resolved?

Model neutral language. When people are in conflict they use inflammatory language such as profanity, name calling, and exaggerations that escalate the conflict. Restate inflammatory language in a more objective way to help make the information less emotionally laden and more useful for future discussions.

Separate the person from the problem. View the problem as a specific behavior or set of circumstances rather than attributing negative feelings to the whole person. This approach makes the problem more manageable and hopeful than deciding you “can’t stand” this person any longer.

Work together. This requires that each person stop placing blame and take ownership of the problem. Make a commitment to work together and listen to each other to solve the conflict.

Agree to disagree. Each person has a unique point of view and rarely agrees on every detail. Being right is not what is important. When managing conflict, seeking the “truth” can trap you rather than set you free. For example, consider the differing testimony of witnesses that all see the same car accident. Truth is relative to the person’s point of view.

Focus on the future. In conflict we tend to remember every single thing that ever bothered us about that person. People in conflict need to vent about the past but they often dwell on the past. Often the best way to take ownership of the problem is to recognize that regardless of the past, you need to create a plan to address the present conflict and those that may arise in the future.

“Move past positions.” A position is the desired outcome of a conflict. Often the position is “I need a new roommate” or “This person is impossible to live with.” Positions are not negotiable and result in impasse. To resolve conflict, each person has to “move past positions.”

Share your interests. To solve interpersonal conflict, all parties must talk about their interests or the WHYs behind their positions. They must share their true interests and work together to find a solution that satisfies those interests. Common interests for students are to sleep, study, entertain and relax in a comfortable atmosphere. Often their interests are more intangible such as respect, belonging, friendship, and fun. When individuals have differing lifestyles, values, and schedules the need to discuss their differences is critical in managing conflict. You must develop a balanced plan of give and take that satisfies everyone’s interests.

Be creative. Finding a resolution to the problem that satisfies everyone requires creativity and hard work. Be careful not to give in simply to avoid conflict or maintain harmony. Agreements reached too early usually do not last. Generate silly options to begin thinking “outside of the box” of original positions.

Be specific. When problem solving be very specific. For example if you are using a roommate agreement to facilitate the discussion make sure that everyone fully understands each point that is written down. Clarify ambiguous terms that each person may interpret differently.

Maintain confidentiality. Encourage others who are in conflict to deal directly with the person they are in conflict with. Avoiding the conflict and venting to others tends to escalate the conflict and fuels the rumor mill. If rumors are already part of the conflict, encourage them to work out a plan to put an end to the gossip. Do your part to quell rumors.

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Learn how to manage conflict at work by using these workplace conflict skills and strategies.

Sooner or later, almost all of us will find ourselves trying to cope with how to manage conflict at work. At the office, we may struggle to work through high-pressure situations with people with whom we have little in common. We need a special set of strategies to calm tempers, restore order, and meet each side’s interests.

The following three strategies will help you learn how to manage conflict at work.

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In our FREE special report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School – The New Conflict Management: Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies to Avoid Litigation – renowned negotiation experts uncover unconventional approaches to conflict management that can turn adversaries into partners.

1. Put formal systems in place.

Conflict in the workplace often arises when resentment, anger, and other negative emotions are left to fester. An accidental slight can lead into a full-blown dispute if the parties involved fail to address it explicitly. As a consequence, workplace conflict is often managed one dispute at a time, an approach that is inefficient and costly.

In recent years, organizations seeking to determine how to manage conflict at work increasingly have recognized the benefits of putting in place a formalized system for addressing conflict in the workplace. In an article in the Negotiation Briefings newsletter, Harvard Law School professors Frank E. A. Sander and Robert C. Bordone recommend that organizations engage in dispute system design—the process of diagnosing, designing, implementing, and evaluating an effective method of resolving conflicts in an organization. Those with basic experience with dispute-resolution processes such as negotiation, mediation, and arbitration, should be able to help their organization establish a dispute-resolution process.

One of the main goals of dispute system design, or DSD, should be to support low-cost, less invasive approaches to managing workplace conflict before moving on to more costly, riskier approaches. For example, an organization might encourage or require employees in conflict to engage in mediation before moving on to an arbitration hearing. In addition, write Sander and Bordone, employees should be able to tap into the dispute-resolution process at different points throughout the organization—for example, through their supervisor, an HR staff member, or some other leader—lest they avoid the system due to distrust of one person in particular.

Setting up a dispute system can be a complex process, but it will almost inevitably promote a more efficient means of managing workplace conflict than a case-by-case approach.

2. Promote better feedback.

Workplace conflict often arises because co-workers have difficulty giving one another effective feedback, or any feedback at all. When we fail to let people know how they can improve, our frustration grows as their mistakes mount. Similarly, if we give unconstructive feedback—feedback that is vague, very negative, or too personal—we can create destructive workplace conflict.

We need to learn to give more effective feedback and teach others in our organization to deliver meaningful and useful feedback as well. People who give good feedback ask questions, stay positive, give details, and describe how the situation makes them feel, writes Program on Negotiation managing director Susan Hackley in Negotiation Briefings. Leaders also need to make it easy for people to raise concerns.

In their 2014 book Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen offer advice on accepting feedback in a constructive manner—even when the feedback isn’t delivered constructively. We all need to learn to identify personal triggers that cause us to take perceived criticism personally, for example.

3. Focus on the problem, not the people.

When deciding how to manage conflict at work, try to focus on the problem rather than the personalities involved, recommends Hackley. Because conflict tends to promote competition and antagonism, you should strive to frame the situation in a positive light. For example, focus on the potential benefits to the organization if you are able to resolve the workplace conflict rather than on the potential negatives if you have difficulty doing so.

In addition, when dealing with conflict at work, remember that people tend to view conflicts quite differently, based on their individual perspective. Our perceptions of what went wrong tend to be self-serving. With each person believing he or she is “right” and the other person is “wrong,” it’s no wonder conflicts often fester in organizations.

For this reason, it’s crucial to start off your workplace conflict resolution efforts by taking a joint problem-solving approach. Ask open-ended questions and test your assumptions, advises Hackley. Make sure that each party has ample time to express his or her views without interruption.

When figuring out how to manage conflict at work, we need to remember the importance of exploring the deeper interests underlying the other party’s positions. When you listen closely, you will go a long way toward building trust and resolving difficult situations.

Does your organization have a formal process for resolving workplace disputes?

Claim your FREE copy: The New Conflict Management

In our FREE special report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School – The New Conflict Management: Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies to Avoid Litigation – renowned negotiation experts uncover unconventional approaches to conflict management that can turn adversaries into partners.

Many people head in the opposite direction when they spot conflict in the workplace. But if you’re a manager that's a mistake. Conflict can be healthy or unhealthy, but either way, it merits your attention.

The healthy conflict focuses on differences of opinion regarding tasks or work-related activities. It can be leveraged and facilitated for gain.

Unhealthy conflict is a kind that gets personal. It must be extinguished immediately or it jeopardizes the work environment.

5 Styles of Conflict Management:

The research work of Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann in the 1970s led to the identification of five styles of conflict and the development of a widely used self-assessment called the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, or TKI.

Their work suggested that we all have a preferred way to deal with conflict which serves us well in some situations, but not all. The key to success is to develop a flexible toolkit of conflict management approaches and use the one that best fits the situation.

The more you can get comfortable with each way of dealing with conflict, the more effective you will be.


In the collaborative approach, the manager works with the people involved to develop a win-win solution. The focus on finding a solution that meets everyone’s needs.

This style is appropriate when:

  • The situation is not urgent
  • An important decision needs to be made
  • The conflict involves many people or a number of people across teams
  • Previous conflict resolution attempts have failed

This style is not appropriate when:

  • A decision needs to be made urgently
  • The matter is trivial to all involved


With a competitive approach, the person who takes the firmest stand wins. This style is often seen as aggressive and can be the cause of others in the conflict feeling taken advantage of.

Nevertheless, this style is appropriate when:

  • A decision needs to be made quickly
  • An unpopular decision needs to be made
  • Someone is trying to take advantage of a situation

This style is not appropriate when:

  • People are feeling sensitive about the issue
  • The situation is not urgent
  • Buy-in is important


With the compromising approach, each person gives up something that contributes towards conflict resolution.

This style is appropriate when:

  • A decision needs to be made sooner rather than later
  • Resolving the conflict is more important than having each individual win
  • Power among the people in the conflict is equal

This style is not appropriate when:

  • A variety of important needs must be met
  • The situation is extremely urgent
  • One person holds more power than another


The accommodating style is one of the most passive conflict resolution methods. One of the individuals gives in so that the other person can get what they want. As a rule, this style is not very effective, but it is appropriate in certain scenarios:

  • Maintaining the relationship is more important than winning
  • The issue at hand is very important to only one person

This style is not appropriate when:

  • It will not permanently solve the problem


The last approach is to avoid the conflict entirely. People who use this style tend to accept decisions without question, avoid confrontation, and delegate difficult decisions and tasks. Avoiding is another passive approach that is typically not effective, but it has its uses.

This style is appropriate when:

  • The issue is trivial
  • The conflict will resolve itself on its own soon

This style is not appropriate when:

  • The issue is important to you or your team
  • The conflict will grow worse without attention

The Bottom Line

There is no right or wrong style of conflict resolution. Each has its time and place. Learn how to use all five and you’ll be much more effective. As a manager, learn to suggest different approaches based on these five styles when striving to defuse conflict.