Conflicts are emotionally charged situations, and these emotions can make them more difficult to address; but as a leader, you must do so. 

Conflict is the single largest cause of poor performance, dissatisfaction, and job turnover. If you fail to tackle a conflict situation on your team, in your department or in your organisation, you can expect these kinds of negative consequences.

Below we look at what conflict resolution is, discuss a sample scenario in which conflict can arise in the workplace, and provide tips to resolve conflicts in your workplace effectively

What is conflict resolution?

Conflict resolution is a process in which two parties or more in disagreement work to find a peaceful solution to the dispute. The process can be formal or informal. 

Conflicts tend to fall into two main camps: personality conflict or conflicts between individuals, in which anger, frustration, stress or other emotions drive the conflict; and ‘substantive conflict’, which is tangible, task-related and involves a leaders’ decisions, a team member’s performance or similar situations.

An example of a conflict scenario

A variety of scenarios can emerge during the day. Maybe you’ve experienced a scenario like the following:

A conflict arises between two heads of department when a product manager changes the price of a product without informing the marketing manager. As a result, the marketing team sends out emails that feature the wrong product price. They then follow this up with an email in which they apologise for the mispricing. The business then honours the price in the email.

Situations like this can create resentment and frustration, but empathy and understanding is required here. People need to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. The product manager may have been under pressure at the time they decided to change the price without any consultation. Although conflict resolution isn’t a blame game, people must also learn to acknowledge their own part in the problem. It’s possible in the above scenario that the marketing manager hadn’t actually shared the marketing strategy with the product manager, who may have avoided changing the price if they’d known otherwise.

Courses such as our Conflict Transformation: Tackling Conflict in the Workplace course encourage you to take a proactive approach to conflict and enable you to understand the different aspects of conflict. You’ll learn about different intervention models and look at elements such as blame and anger, how we define conflict, the emotional dimension to conflict, dehumanisation and victimisation, and other aspects of conflict situations. Ultimately, the course provides you with the tools to minimise conflict and approach conflict situations confidently, positively, and assertively.

Effective conflict resolution

It takes courage to initiate a conflict resolution process, and approaching conflict is a duty from which leaders mustn’t hide. Below we set out some tips for you to resolve conflicts effectively so that you and your team, department, or the wider organisation can all progress within closer reach of the relevant targets and objectives.

1. Enter with a ‘listen first’ mentality

Listening, especially active listening, is essential during conflict resolution, whether you’re leading the process or you’re on one of the sides that has had the difference of opinion. Everyone needs to feel heard, and it’s important that you stay engaged with them. Enter the situation willing to hear the others out. You may discover that your impressions about what they wanted were wrong.

2. Display emotional intelligence

Showing maturity and emotional intelligence are imperative. You don’t want to add more fuel to the conflict or hurt the feelings of others. Be careful to focus on the facts and avoid launching personal attacks on anyone involved in the conflict resolution proceedings. 

If emotional intelligence is a skill you need to improve, our Emotional Intelligence for Leaders course will serve you well. On the course, you’ll learn how to develop your emotional intelligence and also how to handle disruptive emotions, which you may feel in an emotionally charged situation such as a conflict.

3. Focus on the present

Don’t carry grudges from the past into the present situation. Doing so will impair your ability to perceive the reality of the present situation. Focus on solving the problem that exists now. Conflict is a distraction, and you must prevent personal ill-feeling from derailing progress even further.

4. Lose your emotions

Conflict resolution entails finding common ground, which will be hard to do if the parties in conflict can’t set aside their emotions. Although it’s natural to experience strong feelings during a dispute, allowing emotions to run riot will only exacerbate the issue. If you’re leading the session, ask the participants to leave powerful emotions out of the matter so they can concentrate on the facts and work towards solving the problem.

5. Agree on the facts

Building a consensus on the basic facts of the disagreement is important because it’s the first hint of common groundbreaking through the wall between the disputant parties. Being methodical about seeking agreement on the facts will make the process of resolution easier.

When establishing the nature of the problem, take care to do this in a neutral setting. Set out guidelines so that the interaction between the participants in the process remains respectful and professional.

6. Seek out the root cause

Identifying the root cause of the conflict will make it more straightforward to resolve the conflict. To find the cause of the conflict, you have to trace it back to the root of the problem. Build a timeline with the parties in disagreement so that you can work your way back towards the true cause of the conflict. 

7. Make finding a solution the priority

Although it may feel to each person in the conflict as the other party is responsible for causing the conflict, and although part of the resolution process requires the establishment of the causes of the dispute, conflict resolution isn’t about attaching blame; it’s about finding a solution and the focus should be on that. No one has to ‘win’. It’s not about being ‘right’.

8. Look for a compromise

Both parties need to work towards a solution. Both parties need to feel heard. Aim for a win-win situation. To find an acceptable solution, the participants must be willing to compromise. Each is likely to have to make concessions to the other. A win-win solution is nearly always possible.

Book a conflict transformation course with us

Conflicts are charged with emotion, and good conflict resolution will require the leader and the participants in the discord to set aside strong emotions past grudges and personal ill-feeling, and focus on the facts and reaching a solution. It’s not about one participant or group ‘beating’ the other, however. If you’re leading the process, a combination of conflict resolution skills and emotional intelligence will enable calm, rational discussion of the matter and re-establish harmony between the groups or individuals in disagreement.

To find out more about this course and book your place on it, click on the course link, or contact us via the form on our Contact page, email at enquiries@inpd.co.uk or on 0161 826 3139. We welcome any questions you have about this course or any other of our courses, so don’t hesitate to get in touch via the contact form, email or phone if you have any queries.

Conflict resolution is an indispensable leadership skill. In these times of COVID-19, there may well have been conflict over the best forms of action to take during the crisis. How did you handle it? If you didn’t tackle the situation, we recommend taking our training course to prepare yourself better for future conflict situations.


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