Skip to main content

How to Resolve Conflict at Work

S. Davies is a business communications coach who gives workshops on how to keep your professional reputation squeaky-clean and drama-free.

How do you respond to workplace conflict?

How do you respond to workplace conflict?

Dealing With Workplace Conflict?

Are you dealing with difficult personalities at work? Here's how to resolve conflict in the workplace using a collaborative framework.

Encouraging Collaboration During a Conflict

How do you get teams to work together and collaborate? Here's a step-by-step process to help guide you and your team through a healthy, rewarding collaborative process when tension arises in the workplace.

  1. Start by identifying the source of the conflict. What is the real source of the problem? Conflict can arise due to misunderstandings, conflicting end-goals, or different communication styles. Try to find out what the real issues are at the heart of the conflict before you start trying to solve the problem. For example, when you try to find the cause of the conflict, you may find out that not everyone had the same information to work with and that's when the problem started.
  2. Give everyone a chance to speak. Effectively resolving conflict requires a commitment to communicate openly without assigning blame to individuals. By giving people a chance to speak about their concerns, the ground rules must be clear; name-calling, accusations, and blame will not be tolerated. Everyone should be given an equal opportunity to speak for roughly the same length of time. One party shouldn’t be allowed to railroad the conversation or make other group members feel uncomfortable.
  3. Listen. Remind everyone that listening is just as important as speaking. Resolving conflict in the workplace is impossible if people are always talking but never listening to each other. It may help to appoint one person to transcribe in point form what each person's concerns are. Having a succinct list of all the various concerns will help with the next step in the collaborative problem-solving process.
  4. Using neutral language, identify areas of disagreement. Using your list of issues created in steps 1, 2, and 3, identify the key items that are the source of the disagreement. Help all parties identify the most important issues that are causing concern and commit to working on those issues first. Focus on what is going on in the here and now. What issues have the parties come to resolve today? Bringing up past grievances and disputes should be discouraged. Keep the team focused on the present.
  5. Identify areas of mutual agreement. Once all the items that team members disagree on, turn the discussion towards exploring what people do agree on. Areas of agreement could be related to shared goals, mutual interests and values, and beliefs.
  6. Do some brainstorming. Invite everyone to develop a list of solutions to the conflict by facilitating a brainstorming session.
  7. Come to a consensus on the best solution for everyone. Review each possible solution on the list and evaluate each one. Rule out the solutions that are not acceptable at all. Keep evaluating the list and continue refining it until the group agrees upon one solution.
When it comes to resolving conflict at work, taking a collaborative approach will result in more winners than losers. In fact, when teams collaborate, there are no losers because the ultimate goal of collaboration is to achieve win-win results.

When it comes to resolving conflict at work, taking a collaborative approach will result in more winners than losers. In fact, when teams collaborate, there are no losers because the ultimate goal of collaboration is to achieve win-win results.

Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.

— Andrew Carnegie

Tips for Resolving Conflicts

Remember these main points when you're trying to resolve conflict in the workplace.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Toughnickel

  • Remain calm. Breathe. Avoid raising your voice.
  • Don’t take things personally. As difficult to do as this may sound, remind yourself that verbal criticism isn’t actually about you. It is about how the person is reacting to their perceptions of your behavior at the moment.
  • Be mindful of your body language. Make sure that your body language is also non-defensive when you are responding to criticism at work. Don’t cross your arms or turn away from your critic. Maintaining eye contact to show that you are listening. Defensive body language such as eye-rolling, smirking, or avoiding eye contact will likely cause your opponent to double down on the criticism if he thinks he is being ignored. Make sure to nod and quietly acknowledge the speaker's comments with soft words and phrases such as “Yes” or “I see” to show that you are tuned in to what the speaker is saying.
  • Be respectful. Even when someone is yelling and screaming at you, you have an opportunity to appeal to their humanity by acknowledging that the person is upset and that you are willing to try and resolve the issue (within reason, of course). If the abusive behavior doesn’t stop you may have to walk away from the attack until the other person calms down. Remember, you are not responsible for how other people behave, you are only responsible for your behavior.

After the Resolution

Once the workplace conflict has been resolved, be sure to end the team meeting on a positive note. Thank everyone for their participation and express your hope for the future of the organization as everyone works with renewed interest and enthusiasm towards a common goal.

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.

— Henry Ford

Everyone Is Working Towards a Common Goal

In summary, to resolve conflict at work, remind team members how much they have in common and how, in reality, everyone is working towards a common goal: serving the organization to the best of each person’s abilities.


Article source material: Resolving Conflict, The Leadership Excellence Series, Toastmasters International

Image Credit:

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2016 S Davies

Related Articles