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Top Concepts for Resolving Workplace Conflict

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

Conflict is a natural and inevitable part of any workplace. To maintain a productive and positive work environment, employers and employees need to understand conflict resolution concepts. This blog post will discuss the top eight concepts for resolving workplace conflict. We will also provide tips for implementing these concepts in your workplace.


What Causes Workplace Conflicts?

There are many potential causes of workplace conflict. Some of the most common include:

Different Goals and Objectives

Having different goals and objectives is often at the root of workplace conflict. When team members work towards different goals, finding common ground and moving forward together can be challenging. If this is the case, it's essential to discuss everyone's goals and objectives and see if there is a way to align them. Conflicting assumptions and differing opinions can lead to conflict in the workplace, which could be avoided if employers had set ground rules about avoiding conflict despite having different goals and objectives.

Once you have found a way to align everyone's goals, it's essential to ensure everyone is on the same page and knows what they need to do to help contribute to the overall goal. This way, everyone will feel like they are working towards something important to them and the team. To achieve this, effective communication is vital. Each employee must learn to listen actively to avoid workplace issues. Active listening skills will effectively cancel poor communication and lead to better conflict avoidance.

Different Work Styles

Work styles can also clash, which can lead to conflict. For example, some people prefer to work independently, while others like to collaborate. Some people want to move quickly, while others like to take their time. To deal with this issue, it's important to understand and respect each other's work styles. Or, if this will not benefit the company, it's important to see if there are ways to change or adapt work styles.

Different Personality Types

Differing personality types can also contribute to workplace conflict. For example, some people are more introverted, while others are more extroverted. Because of different personality types, some people may feel like they need more personal space, while others may feel like they need more interaction with their co-workers.

Some people may be more task-oriented, while others may be more people-oriented. Task-oriented individuals may have difficulty understanding why someone would want to stop and chat when things need to be done. People-oriented individuals may have difficulty understanding why someone would like to work on a task alone when there are people around that they could interact with.

Different personality types can lead to misunderstandings and conflict, but they can also be an opportunity for learning and growth. By understanding the different personality types of your co-workers, you can learn to appreciate their strengths and weaknesses, and you can learn to work together more effectively.

Therefore, employers must provide employees with the opportunity to resolve conflict through mediation or some other dispute-resolution process. Without a way to resolve conflict, employees will become frustrated, and the workplace will become unpleasant.


Unfortunately, miscommunication is one of the most common causes of workplace conflict. When people don't communicate effectively, it can lead to misaligned expectations, hurt feelings, and even resentment.

One way to prevent miscommunication is to make sure you are clear when communicating with your colleagues. This means being concise and straightforward in your communication and ensuring that your message is received and understood by the other person.

If you are in a situation where miscommunication has already caused conflict, take a step back and try to understand where the misunderstanding occurred. Once you identify the source of the problem, you can work on resolving it.

Lack of Trust

Employees who don't trust their managers create a tense and unproductive work environment. Employees need to feel like they can trust their superiors to feel comfortable coming to them with concerns or problems. Managers should build trust by being open and transparent with their employees.

One way to build trust is by maintaining open communication channels. This means being available to answer questions and address concerns. It also means being honest, even when it's difficult. For example, if you make a mistake, own up to it and apologize. Employees will respect you more for your honesty than for trying to cover up your mistakes.

Lack of Respect

Respect is a two-way street. Employees need to feel respected by their employers, and employers need to feel respected by their employees. When respect is lacking in the workplace, it can lead to conflict. There are a few ways to show respect in the workplace:

  • Communicate effectively

  • Be open-minded

  • Give credit where it's due

  • Be professional

Once respect has been established in the workplace, resolving conflict will be much easier.

Unclear Roles and Responsibilities

Another reason why conflict arises in the workplace is due to unclear roles and responsibilities. When team members are unsure of their roles or what is expected, it can lead to frustration and conflict.

To avoid this, make sure that everyone on your team knows what their role is and what is expected of them. You can do this by creating a clear job description for each role on your team.

In addition, you should keep your team members updated on any changes to their roles and responsibilities. For example, if you add a new project to their plate, make sure they know about it and have the necessary resources to complete it. By keeping everyone informed of changes to their roles and responsibilities, you can help avoid conflict.


8 Concepts for Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Resolving conflicts is easy as long as you have the right tools. Here are eight concepts that can help you resolve workplace conflict:

Set Expectations During the Onboarding Process

Setting expectations during the onboarding process is an underrated way to prevent conflict. By setting expectations early on, you can avoid a lot of small disagreements that can escalate into full-blown conflicts.

For example, you can set expectations around communication styles, work hours, and break times. You can also set expectations around how to handle conflict. By setting these expectations early on, you can avoid many problems down the road.

Keep an Ear Out for Rumors

Another way to stay on top of conflict is to keep an ear out for rumours. If you sense something might be happening, nip it in the bud by talking to the person involved directly. Asking questions and getting both sides of the story will help you get a clear picture of what's really going on and hopefully diffuse the situation before it gets out of hand.

If the situation gets out of hand, it's essential to have a solid plan for dealing with conflict. That way, you can address the issue head-on and hopefully come to a resolution that everyone can be happy with. For example, you might have a policy requiring employees to come to you with any issues they're having so that you can address them directly instead of having them keep spreading rumours or gossip.

Ask & Check In

Another key part of resolving workplace conflict is to ask questions and check in with your team. Understanding everyone's perspective and what they feel might be a potential solution is important. Avoid getting defensive or blaming, and just listen to what others say.

Once you've gathered all this information, you can start to put together a plan that will work for everyone involved. It's important to communicate this plan to your team and ensure everyone is on board. This way, you can avoid any further conflict and move forward together.

Don't Sweep Conflict Under the Rug

One of the biggest mistakes people make when resolving workplace conflict is trying to sweep it under the rug. It's human nature to want to avoid conflict, but if you do that, it will only fester and grow. Ignoring conflict will not make it go away – in fact, it will usually make things worse. If you find yourself in a situation where there is conflict at work, the best thing to do is to address it head-on.

For instance, you can try to converse with the person you are in conflict with. This can be difficult, but it's essential to try to communicate openly and honestly. It's also important to listen to what the other person has to say. Try to see things from their perspective and look for common ground.

Another option is to go to a mediator or HR. This can be helpful if you cannot resolve the conflict on your own. A mediator can help facilitate a conversation and help you find a resolution that works for both parties. By proactively addressing conflict head-on, you can prevent it from becoming a bigger issue.

Investigate With Care

Sometimes, we tend to blame the other person for everything that goes wrong. We may think that they are being unreasonable or that they are taking advantage of us. It is important to remember that every story has two sides. When you are in conflict with someone at work, take a step back and try to see things from their perspective.

Investigate with care so that you can get a clear understanding of the situation. Once you have all the facts, you can look for a resolution that will work for both parties.

Understand Employees' Fears & Motivations

Another very important key to resolving workplace conflict is understanding what your employees are afraid of and what motivates them. What are their hot buttons? When you know what makes them tick, you can avoid pushing those buttons and causing unnecessary conflict.

You should also be aware of any changes in your employees' personal lives that could affect their work behaviour. For instance, if an employee is going through a divorce, they may be more irritable and prone to conflict. Knowing what's going on in your employees' personal lives can help you be more understanding and resolve conflicts before they start.

It's not right to simply decide to fire someone because they're causing conflict. You need to work on resolving the conflict first, and if that doesn't work, then you can consider termination. But often, with a bit of understanding and effort, workplace conflict can be resolved.

Look for a Win-win Solution

There is always a solution to every problem, but it often takes two people to see it. Try to find a solution that makes everyone happy. If you can't find one, try to compromise.

For example, try taking turns if you and your co-worker can't agree on when to take your lunch break. One week you can take your lunch at noon, and the next week, they can take lunch at noon. This way, you're both getting what you want without causing a major conflict.

Involve a Third Party if Necessary

If conflicts in your workplace are too difficult to resolve on your own, or if they're starting to affect your job performance, it may be time to involve a third party. This could be a supervisor, human resources representative, or even an outside mediator. The important thing is to find someone who can be neutral and objective and who has the authority to make decisions if necessary. This way, you can be sure that the conflict will be resolved fairly and equitably.


Additional Ways To Help Manage Employee Conflict

Aside from the methods already mentioned, here are a few additional ways you can help manage employee conflict within your organization:

  • Encourage employees to have regular check-ins with their managers. This will help ensure that any potential conflicts are caught early and addressed before they escalate.

  • Make sure your employees know that it's okay to disagree. Encourage them to share their different perspectives respectfully.

  • Encourage employees to take breaks throughout the day. This will help them clear their heads and come back to resolve the conflict with a fresh perspective.

  • Encourage employees to share their concerns with you or their direct supervisor openly.

  • Acknowledge that conflict is normal and can be a healthy part of workplace dynamics.

  • Establish ground rules for how employees should communicate with one another.

  • Model the behaviour you expect from your employees.

  • Be available to help mediate conflict when necessary.

Talk to a HR consultant

Talk to one of our qualified HR consultants for more information:


Bottom Line

Remember that resolving conflict takes time. Don't expect employees to resolve their differences overnight. If you're a manager, provide employees with the resources they need to resolve conflicts, such as mediation or counselling services. And if you're an employee, don't hesitate to ask for help from your managers or HR department. With these tips in mind, resolving workplace conflict can be a positive experience for everyone involved.

If you need outside help, HR Coach offers conflict resolution services. Contact us today so we can help you create a conflict-free workplace.

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