Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Conflict Resolution in the Workplace
  • Opening Intro -

    Watch just one episode of "The Office" and you will see workplace dysfunction at play.

    Although the now retired television series was a parody of the office environment, avid watchers and office workers alike would tell you that there was an element of truth between each caustic line.


Truthfully, conflict at the workplace is all-too-common occurrence with wise managers employing various resolution techniques to maintain peace.

The Heart of the Matter

When a problem arises, do not ignore it. Allow the aggrieved parties to air their complaints and intervene only when necessary. Most adults learned how to work through problems as children and need to employ those same skills in the workplace.

Give the conflicting parties time to talk matters out. Provide a room or other separate space to allow disagreements to be aired without an audience nearby. Sometimes, the differences between people can become exaggerated if one or more individuals sense that a crowd is watching and ready to take sides.

When to Intervene

Intervention may be necessary, especially if the differences between workers cannot be resolved. Jump in if other employees are affected or if work suffers. Some problems are work related while others are personal differences. Attempt to identify the conflict and take the steps necessary to bring forth a resolution.

Bring the conflicting parties together, but if one or more individuals needs time to cool down or collect his thoughts, then allow that. Avoid setting an authoritarian role, but do mentor the conflict.

Stay Above the Fray

As a manager, taking sides can further division between two or more people. Worse, your decision can cause everyone else to take sides as well, further polarizing an already difficult work environment.

Understand what the problem is and maintain your personal credibility by remaining objective. Endeavor to resolve the conflict before matters spiral out of control. Avoid siding with either party even if the conflict can be traced to one individual.

How to Handle Hostility

Some managers live in fear of their employees, thinking that if they get angry that an individual may become unhinged and lash out. Fear is usually based on the irrational and will, in times of conflict, worsen the problem.

Uncooperative or difficult employees can be a challenge to any manager. Instead of ignoring or working against these people, a strong manager will seek to understand and work with this person. You are not required to like everyone evenly, but you must show balance and impartiality on the job.

When to Get Help

There are times when you cannot resolve conflict, at least on your own. In tougher cases, your human resources department may need to intervene. Newer managers may not fully understand the office’s dynamics and may need assistance to resolve the problem.

Keep in mind that if at any time conflict escalates to the point where physical harm is threatened or carried out, then emergency assistance is required. Contact your business’ security office or call the police at once.

Maintaining Peace

Some managers compromise to achieve peace, effectively ceding their authority to maintain order. Doing so can make you look weak, petty and ineffectual, traits that can lead to poor morale, cynicism and a higher turnover rate. Employees respect authority provided it is backed up by firmness and objectivity, but they will also despise any manager who is diffident or simply inexperienced.

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Categories: Small Business

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".