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Created April 6, 2012

Managing Conflict

Even in well-functioning and collaborative workplaces, conflict is inevitable. As a manager or supervisor, it is your responsibility to deal with conflict with or between employees. Doing so effectively can improve relationships in the workplace and, in turn, lead to improved performance at work. Here are some tips on how to manage conflict.

In general:

  • Do not avoid or ignore conflict.
  • Have a plan or process for managing conflict. Make sure employees know this plan so they can act appropriately when conflict arises.
  • Check with your Human Resources office to see if your company already has a protocol for how to deal with conflict, or if there is someone to help deal with conflict in the workplace (e.g., an ombudsman).

When addressing conflict with an employee or between employees:

  • Have the discussion in a neutral setting that allows for privacy (e.g., a conference room with a door).
  • Identify the goal of the discussion (e.g., gathering information, generating a solution) and stick to the goal.
  • Focus on the facts and the identified problem.
  • If multiple people are involved, let each person have time to describe what he or she sees as the problem. Use a time limit if needed.
  • Listen actively and paraphrase what was said. Ask for clarification when needed.
  • Do not focus on emotions or the person.
  • Use objective, professional language.
  • Avoid judgmental comments or making generalizations.
  • Do not interrupt or let others interrupt.
  • When generating possible solutions, be flexible and offer options when possible.