Human Resources

Managing Workplace Conflict

Ideally, team members are encouraged to address issues that arise with other team members individually to foster a culture of effective communication. If that approach is unsuccessful, the supervisor can act as a mediator and facilitator. Begin by listening to both sides, understanding perspectives, and acknowledging emotions. Encourage open dialogue, find common ground, and work together to try to find a solution that is fair and as beneficial for all parties as possible. HR colleagues are available to partner with you and your team members to facilitate productive conversations.

Five Steps for Managing Conflict in the Workplace

Speak to team members individually

Start by meeting one-on-one with each team member involved in the conflict to confidentially hear their concerns and understand their perspectives. Avoid making assumptions and ask both parties the same questions to remain impartial.

Bring team members together

Once you've got a better understanding of the conflict and everyone's perspectives, bring the relevant parties together and act as a moderator. Set ground rules before getting the conversation underway. Encourage team members to listen to one another, respect each other's points of view, and not interrupt or make personal comments. During the conversation,
  • keep the tone of the conversation calm and non-threatening;
  • encourage active listening, so people understand where the other person is coming from;
  • encourage individuals to share ideas about what they want or need and what they would be prepared to commit to and have them brainstorm some solutions;
  • ask them about situations where they've worked well together in the past and see if they can build on those positive experiences. If the discussion becomes emotionally charged or unproductive, take a break and reconvene when everyone is able to calmly address the issue.

Ask the team for ideas

When a conflict affects the whole team, you can ask for everyone's perspective—provided it's not sensitive or confidential. Talking things out helps you and your team to consider different assumptions, beliefs, and decision-making approaches. This can also be a part of creating a psychologically safe environment, where people feel comfortable sharing ideas and concerns, thus preventing future conflicts. Remember that individuals can have different ways of processing information, so figuring out how to gather input in a way that works for everyone involved is an important part of this process.

Commit as a group to a plan

Ask the parties to detail agreed-on actions for reconciliation. You can draw up a timetable for actions, ticking them off as they are achieved. Hold all relevant parties accountable.

Follow up

Ensure that issues have been resolved properly by following up on the situation. For example, people may still feel irritated but not want to drag things out. You can use one-on-ones to prevent old disagreements from resurfacing.

*Suggestions above are adapted from an article by MindTools.

How does effective conflict resolution contribute to team productivity?

Resolving conflicts promptly maintains a harmonious working environment where team members feel valued and understood. This leads to improved morale, increased focus on tasks, and a more efficient workflow, ultimately enhancing overall team productivity.

When is it appropriate to involve higher management or HR in conflict resolution?

Involving higher management or HR should be considered when conflicts cannot be resolved at the team level or when the conflicts involve larger organizational issues. Higher management or HR can provide a neutral perspective and additional resources to facilitate resolution.