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Conflict is not a strange thing for people. Human beings experience it in their day-to-day lives – with their friends, families, and more so their professional lives. In the workplace, conflict causes a massive degree of frustration, pain, discomfort, sadness, as well as anger. It is a normal life aspect.

In the world of today, organizations hire employees from diverse geographical locations with dissimilar cultural and intellectual backgrounds, as well as various viewpoints. In a working environment where people have disparate outlooks toward the same problems, disagreements are bound to happen.

When people use the appropriate tools of resolution to address issues, they will be able to keep their differences from rising to major problems. “Establishing conflict management processes in a company is fundamental as it helps reduce conflict instances among employees,” says Casper Hansen, an expert in resume writing from Resumethatworks.

Conflict resolution is integral in the corporate world as it helps to distinguish a good business from a bad one. So, as a business owner, what steps should you follow to resolve a conflict?

Well, this article contains some ways through which you can manage and resolve conflict in the workplace. 

  • What are the 5 Conflict Management Strategies?
  • What are the Five Steps in Resolving Conflict in a Team?
  • 7 Tips to Manage and Resolve Conflict in the Workplace
  • What are 10 Ways to Successfully Help Resolve a Conflict?
  • What are the 5 Main Causes for Conflict?
  • What are the 7 Elements of Conflict?
  • What are the 3 Main Types of Conflict?
  • What are the 5 Examples of Conflict?
  • What are Some Early Signs of Conflict?

What are the 5 Conflict Management Strategies?

Though conflict is a normal and natural part of any workplace, it can lead to absenteeism, lost productivity, and mental health issues. At the same time, conflict can be a motivator that generates new ideas and innovation as well as leads to increased flexibility and a better understanding of working relationships. However, conflict needs to be effectively managed in order to contribute to the success of organizations.

Read Also: Interactive Online Communication

According to the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), used by human resource (HR) professionals around the world, there are five major styles of conflict management—collaborating, competing, avoiding, accommodating, and compromising.

Knowing when and how to use each style can help control conflict and lead to an improved working environment, resulting in a better bottom line.

Collaborating Style: A combination of being assertive and cooperative, those who collaborate attempt to work with others to identify a solution that fully satisfies everyone’s concerns. In this style, which is the opposite of avoiding, both sides can get what they want and negative feelings are minimized. “Collaborating works best when the long-term relationship and outcome are important—for example, planning for integrating two departments into one, where you want the best of both in the newly formed department,” Dr. Benoliel says.

Competing Style: Those who compete are assertive and uncooperative and willing to pursue one’s own concerns at another person’s expense. Dr. Benoliel explains using this style works when you don’t care about the relationship but the outcome is important, such as when competing with another company for a new client. But, she cautions, “Don’t use competing inside your organization; it doesn’t build relationships.”

Avoiding Style: Those who avoid conflict tend to be unassertive and uncooperative while diplomatically sidestepping an issue or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation. “Use this when it is safer to postpone dealing with the situation or you don’t have as great a concern about the outcome, such as if you have a conflict with a co-worker about their ethics of using FaceTime on the job.”

Accommodating Style: The opposite of competing, there is an element of self-sacrifice when accommodating to satisfy the other person. While it may seem generous, it could take advantage of the weak and cause resentment. “You can use accommodating when you really don’t care a lot about the outcome but do want to preserve or build the relationship,” Dr. Benoliel says, “such as going out for lunch with the boss and agreeing, ‘If you want to go for Thai food for lunch, that’s OK with me.’”

Compromising Style: This style aims to find an expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties in the conflict while maintaining some assertiveness and cooperativeness. “This style is best to use when the outcome is not crucial and you are losing time; for example, when you want to just make a decision and move on to more important things and are willing to give a little to get the decision made,” Dr. Benoliel says. “However,” she adds, “be aware that no one is really satisfied.”

“It’s incredibly important to not be afraid when conflict arises because there are things you can do, such as becoming more skilled and qualified by building a repertoire for responding to reduce conflict,” says Dr. Benoliel.

What are the Five Steps in Resolving Conflict in a Team?

Here is the conflict resolution process in five steps.

Step 1: Define the source of the conflict.

The more information you have about the cause of the problem, the more easily you can help to resolve it. To get the information you need, use a series of questions to identify the cause, like, “When did you feel upset?” “Do you see a relationship between that and this incident?” “How did this incident begin?” 

As a manager or supervisor, you need to give both parties the chance to share their side of the story. It will give you a better understanding of the situation, as well as demonstrate your impartiality. As you listen to each disputant, say, “I see” or “uh huh” to acknowledge the information and encourage them to continue to open up to you. 

Step 2: Look beyond the incident.

Often, it is not the situation but the point of view of the situation that causes anger to fester and ultimately leads to a shouting match or other visible and disruptive results. 

The source of the conflict might be a minor issue that occurred months before, but the level of stress has grown to the point where the two parties have begun attacking each other personally instead of addressing the real problem. In the calm of your office, you can get them to look beyond the triggering incident to see the real cause. Once again, probing questions will help, like, “What do you think happened here?” or “When do you think the problem between you first arose?

Step 3: Request solutions.

After getting each party’s viewpoint, the next step is to get them to identify how the situation could be changed. Again, question the parties to solicit their ideas: “How can you make things better between you?”As mediator, you have to be an active listener, aware of every verbal nuance, as well as a good reader of body language.

You want to get the disputants to stop fighting and start cooperating, and that means steering the discussion away from finger pointing and toward ways of resolving the conflict.

Step 4: Identify solutions both disputants can support.

You are listening for the most acceptable course of action. Point out the merits of various ideas, not only from each other’s perspective but in terms of the benefits to the organization. For instance, you might suggest the need for greater cooperation and collaboration to effectively address team issues and departmental problems.

Step 5: Agreement.

The mediator needs to get the two parties to shake hands and accept one of the alternatives identified in Step 4. The goal is to reach a negotiated agreement. Some mediators go as far as to write up a contract in which actions and time frames are specified. However, it might be sufficient to meet with the individuals and have them answer these questions: “What action plans will you both put in place to prevent conflicts from arising in the future?” and “What will you do if problems arise in the future?

This mediation process works between groups as well as individuals.

7 Tips to Manage and Resolve Conflict in the Workplace

1. Clarify what is the source of conflict

The first step in resolving conflict is clarifying its source. Defining the cause of the conflict will enable you to understand how the issue came to grow in the first place. Additionally, you will be able to get both parties to consent to what the disagreement is.

And to do so, you need to discuss the needs which are not being met on both sides of the issues. Also, you need to warranty mutual understanding. Ensure you obtain as much information as possible on each side’s outlook. Continue asking questions until you are confident that all the conflicting parties understand the issue.

2. Find a safe and private place to talk

Many people often wonder and ask, “What is an approach to solving problems peacefully?” To have a constructive conversation, you need to find an environment that is safe for you to talk to. Such a place also enables you to take the necessary risks for honest communication regarding the issues at hand. 

So, before trying to resolve any issue, find a safe and private place to talk. Do not choose the office of either party or a location near them. And while at this place, ensure that each party gets enough time to air out their views regarding the matter.

3. Listen actively and let everyone have their say

After getting both parties to meet in a secure and private place, let each of them have the opportunity to air out their views and perceptions regarding the issue at hand.  Give each party equal time to express their thoughts and concerns without favoring the other.

Embrace a positive and assertive approach while in the meeting. If necessary, set ground rules. Taking this approach will encourage both these parties to articulate their thoughts in an open and honest manner as well as comprehend the causes of the conflict and identify solutions.

4. Investigate the situation

After listening to the concerns of both parties, take time, and investigate the case. Do not prejudge or come up with a final verdict on the basis of what you have. Dig deeper and find out more about the happenings, involved parties, the issues, and how people are feeling.

Have an individual and confident conversation with those involved and listen in a keen manner to ensure you comprehend their viewpoints. You can do so by summarizing their statements and replicating them back to them. Also, try finding any underlying conflict sources which may not be evident or noticeable at fast. 

5. Determine ways to meet the common goal

When managing conflict processes, you need to have a common objective, which is resolving the issue and ensuring it does not resurface. And to solve any problem, you need to be aware of the different stages of conflict. This will enable you to look for the ideal ways to meet the common goal.

After clarifying the source of conflict, talking to both parties, and investigating the situation, you need to sit down with both parties and discuss the common ways you can execute to meet the common goal, which is managing and resolving the matter at hand.

Listen, communicate and brainstorm together until you exhaust all options. According to the team lead of Edu Jungles writing company — Kevin Smith, finding the source of conflict is the main step to solving any problem.

6. Agree on the best solution and determine the responsibilities each party has in the resolution

Managing and resolving conflict leaps model of communication. Employees will find it easy to interact with one another as they understand that they have one goal, which is meeting the company’s objectives. So, after investigating the situation and determining ways through which you can resolve the issue, both parties need to develop a conclusion on the best solution for the problem.

And to agree on the best, you need to identify the solutions which each party can live with. Find common ground. Afterward, determine the responsibilities each party has in resolving the conflict. Also, it is crucial to use this chance to identify the root cause and ensure this issue will not come about again.

7. Evaluate how things are going and decide preventative strategies for the future

Never presume that the issue is resolute. Effective communication ought to dominate in the business. So, ask yourself, “What is the second step of effective communication?” Knowing this will help you ensure that the employees are working together to meet the organizational goals. So, continue keeping an eye on the issue and assess if the solution is effective.  If the issue resurfaces, take necessary action.

Also, decide on preventative strategies for the future. Many people often ask, “What is the basic conflict in everyday use?” Some people may not agree on everything, and this may be an issue. So, look for lessons you can learn from the conflict and how you handle it. This will help you know what you can do when the issue resurfaces as well as enable you to develop and nurture your conflict management skills by training.

What are 10 Ways to Successfully Help Resolve a Conflict?

That conflict exists is not the issue, but having an effective conflict resolution strategy to resolve that conflict if it begins to impact the business is crucial for any manager. While conflict can be a creative fuel that helps teams compete and work more productively, it can also easily blow up and bring everything to a dead stop.

Here are 10 conflict resolution strategies that can help you manage volatile team members.

1. Define Acceptable Behavior

Before there is any hint of a conflict, you can reduce or even eliminate potential problems by setting a standard of behavior in the workplace. If you give the team the room to define what is and is not appropriate, they will.

However, as a manager, it’s your responsibility to set the tone. You can do this by writing specific job descriptions, creating a framework for how discussions are run, noting the hierarchy and who is responsible for what, defining proper business practices, choosing which project management tools to use, and helping with team building and leadership development, etc. The more you set the guidelines, the better the team can follow them.

2. Don’t Avoid Conflict

Depending on the type of person and manager you are, there are several ways you might respond to conflict in the workspace. For one, you could ignore it, and let the participants work it out among themselves. This is not always the worst approach. Teams must know how to collaborate, and conflict resolution is one of the tools they’ll need to do that.

However, if you’re avoiding dealing with conflict because it makes you uneasy or because you don’t want to reprimand someone, then that’s a misstep. Of course, it’s your job as a manager to deal with such matters. You have the authority and should act when it is called for. Not doing so only gives the conflict legs on which to carry itself to a confrontation that will have an even worse impact on business.

3. Choose a Neutral Location

One of the first steps to diffuse any conflict is to change the environment. People are heated and that anger is often tied to a place. It sounds odd, but just removing the people from the room they’re fighting in will help put the conflict in perspective.

Then, to resolve the conflict, you’ll want to bring the upset individuals to a neutral location. A neutral space will first bring things down to a level in which a constructive conversation can occur. Secondly, by suggesting a meeting in a coffee house, or anywhere outside the office where there isn’t intrinsically a power dynamic, you are more likely to create a comfortable atmosphere where you can productively deal with whatever caused the issue.

4. Start with a Compliment

After you’ve broken away from the place where the conflict arose, you can address the problem. But you don’t want to jump right into a conversation with an accusatory tone. Your job is to hear all sides and make an executive decision based on the facts and the needs of the work being done.

Therefore, to get a person comfortable enough to talk, start by complimenting them. You want to show that there is no bad guy or good guy here. You’re attacking the problem, not the person.

5. Don’t Jump to Conclusions

The reasons for any conflict are often more complex than they first appear. In order to be just in your treatment of all parties involved, it is advised not to conclude anything at the offset. Even if you think the conflict is obvious, give everyone an opportunity to share their perspective. Get a sense of the history involved. You don’t want to assume anything about anyone. Gather your facts like a quiet detective, and then weigh in with the wisdom of a judge.

6. Think Opportunistically, Not Punitively

While some conflicts are going to require consequences, most are just sparked by passionate people coming at a situation from different vantage points. The truth is that when conflicts arise, so does the opportunity to teach or learn. Being a manager is seeing these conflicts as a means to address what has previously hidden problems within the team dynamics.

7. Offer Guidance, Not Solutions

Another thing to think about as you address conflict in your workforce is not jumping to just righting the wrong. What that means is there could be an obvious reason for the conflict and a similarly clear way to get people back on the same page working productively.

You’re leading the group, not taking sides in their arguments. It’s best if you can get the team to work together to resolve the conflict. That means taking more time to guide them to the conclusion you see, but they’re too emotionally involved to notice.

8. Constructive Criticism

In any conflict there are a multitude of approaches, some more critical than others. But sometimes things are plainly wrong, and criticism is the only valid way to deal with it. Be that as it may, the people you’re criticizing are the same people you’ll be working with tomorrow and next week and so forth. So, how do you criticize without embittering, so you can still effectively lead?

That’s where constructive criticism comes in. It’s an approach that allows you to address the issue and lay blame, but also support the good work that was done. You offer guidance so that the problem can be fixed. The team now has the tools to avoid repeating it, and no one is resentful.

9. Don’t Intimidate

As a manager, you’re in a position of authority. Don’t abuse it. It might seem like the simple fix to coerce the correct course, but that is not thinking in the long term. The team never learns anything from this but to fear you, which means they won’t confide in you when something starts going wrong, leaving you in the dark until the issue is possibly beyond repair. So, take the time to work through your conflict resolution in such a way that it doesn’t pop up again the next day.

10. Act Decisively

Remember, you want to put the time into conflict resolution to do it right. But once you have gone through that process, then it’s time to act, and you should do so decisively.

Don’t let the decision wait and leave the team lingering. It sets a bad precedent in terms of your leadership. You’re leaving a void at the top, which will get filled by ideas other than your own, and you may lose the authority you need to lead. So, when you come to a decision, act on it. Some might not like it, but they’ll at least know where you stand.

What are the 5 Main Causes for Conflict?

There are five main causes of conflict: information conflicts, values conflicts, interest conflicts, relationship conflicts, and structural conflicts.

Information conflicts arise when people have different or insufficient information, or disagree over what data is relevant. Allowing sufficient time to be heard, in a respectful environment facilitated by a neutral person can allow parties to clear up information disparities.

Values conflicts are created when people have perceived or actual incompatible belief systems. Where a person or group tries to impose its values on others or claims exclusive right to a set of values, disputes arise. While values may be non-negotiable, they can be discussed and people can learn to live peacefully and coherently alongside each other.

Interest conflicts are caused by competition over perceived or actual incompatible needs. Such conflicts may occur over issues of money, resources, or time. Parties often mistakenly believe that in order to satisfy their own needs, those of their opponent must be sacrificed. A mediator can help identify ways to dovetail interests and create opportunities for mutual gain.

Relationship conflicts occur when there are misperceptions, strong negative emotions, or poor communication. One person may distrust the other and believe that the other person’s actions are motivated by malice or an intent to harm the other. Relationship conflicts may be addressed by allowing each person uninterrupted time to talk through the issues and respond to the other person’s concerns.

Structural conflicts are caused by oppressive behaviors exerted on others. Limited resources or opportunities as well as organization structures often promote conflict behavior. The parties may well benefit from mediation since the forum will help neutralize the power imbalance.

Regardless of the cause of conflict, an experienced mediator can help parties shift their focus from fighting to resolution. Since they are necessarily unbiased, neutrals create an environment where parties can trust the process and work toward a solution.

What are the 7 Elements of Conflict?

The 7 elements of conflict include:

  1. Propoganda
    2. Alliance
    3. Human Rights
    4. Political Geography
    5. Physical Geography
    6. Cultural Interactions
    7. Scarcity or Abundance of resources

What are the 3 Main Types of Conflict?

Three types of conflict are common in organizations: task conflict, relationship conflict, and value conflict. Although open communication, collaboration, and respect will go a long way toward conflict management, the three types of conflict can also benefit from targeted conflict-resolution tactics.

Task Conflict

The first of the three types of conflict in the workplace, task conflict, often involves concrete issues related to employees’ work assignments and can include disputes about how to divide up resources, differences of opinion on procedures and policies, managing expectations at work, and judgments and interpretation of facts.

Of the three types of conflict discussed here, task conflict may appear to be the simplest to resolve. But task conflict often turns out to have deeper roots and more complex than it appears to have at first glance. For example, coworkers who are arguing about which one of them should go to an out-of-town conference may have a deeper conflict based on a sense of rivalry.

Task conflict often benefits from the intervention of an organization’s leaders. Serving as de facto mediators, managers can focus on identifying the deeper interests underlying parties’ positions. This can be done through active listening, which involves asking questions, repeating back what you hear to confirm your understanding, and asking even deeper questions aimed at probing for deeper concerns.

Try to engage the parties in a collaborative problem-solving process in which they brainstorm possible solutions. When parties develop solutions together, rather than having an outcome imposed on them, they are more likely to abide by the agreement and get along better in the future.

Relationship Conflict

The second of our three types of conflict, relationship conflict, arises from differences in personality, style, matters of taste, and even conflict styles. In organizations, people who would not ordinarily meet in real life are often thrown together and must try to get along. It’s no surprise, then, that relationship conflict can be common in organizations.

Suppose you’ve felt a long-simmering tension with a colleague, whether over work assignments, personality differences, or some other issue. Before turning to a manager, you might invite the colleague out to lunch and try to get to know him or her better. Discovering things you have in common—whether a tie to the same city, children the same age, or shared concerns about problems in your organization—may help bring you together.

If you feel comfortable, bring up the source of the tension and focus on listening to the other person’s point of view. Resist the urge to argue or defend your position. When you demonstrate empathy and interest, he or she is likely to reciprocate. If the conflict persists or worsens, enlist the help of a manager in resolving your differences.

Value Conflict

The last of our three types of conflict, value conflict, can arise from fundamental differences in identities and values, which can include differences in politics, religion, ethics, norms, and other deeply held beliefs. Although discussion of politics and religion is often taboo in organizations, disputes about values can arise in the context of work decisions and policies, such as whether to implement an affirmative action program or whether to take on a client with ties to a corrupt government.

According to MIT professor Lawrence Susskind, disputes involving values tend to heighten defensiveness, distrust, and alienation. Parties can feel so strongly about standing by their values that they reject trades that would satisfy other interests they might have.

Susskind recommends that instead of seeking to resolve a values-based dispute, we aim to move beyond demonization toward mutual understanding and respect through dialogue. Aim for a cognitive understanding in which you and your coworker reach an accurate conceptualization of one another’s point of view.

This type of understanding doesn’t require sympathy or emotional connection, only a “values-neutral” ability to describe accurately what someone else believes about the situation, write Robert Mnookin, Scott R. Peppet, and Andrew S. Tulumello in Beyond Winning: Negotiating to Create Value in Deals and Disputes (Harvard University Press, 2004).

In addition, you may be able to reframe a values-based dispute “by appealing to other values that you and your counterpart share,” writes Susskind in an article in the Negotiation Briefings newsletter, “including universal beliefs such as equal rights or nonviolence, rather than focusing on the differences in beliefs that precipitated the dispute.”

What are the 5 Examples of Conflict?

There are five main types of conflicts in the workplace. Here are examples of each one with possible solutions:

1. Interdependence conflict

Interdependence is when two or more people rely on one another to complete a task or reach a goal. This is an important element of successful teamwork, but it can cause challenges between team members if someone doesn’t complete their tasks or when two people disagree on the tasks involved. Here’s an example of this conflict and a possible solution:

  • Example

Dan is an accountant for a software production company. He requires the sales numbers each month to create his reports. One of his colleagues on the sales team, Bill, is consistently late with his numbers, which affects Dan’s report.

  • Possible solution

To help solve this problem, Dan could contact Bill directly and remind him of the due date. Bill may have forgotten or not realized how important the deadline is. Dan can also remind Bill about their shared goals, which may motivate Bill to complete his independent tasks on time. Dan could also follow up with his manager or Bill’s manager if needed. The sales team manager could help Bill create a new workflow process to help him meet deadlines more effectively.

2. Leadership conflict

Leaders can have unique leadership styles and communication preferences. Sometimes these differences can cause challenges for team members. If you’re in a leadership position, you can help minimize these conflicts by taking time to analyze your own leadership style. You may also adjust your leadership style to help you build connections with all of your unique team members. Here’s an example and possible solution for a leadership conflict:

  • Example

Jen manages a customer service team. She oversees 16 employees, and it’s her first leadership role. She has one team member, Diana, with a low customer satisfaction score. In a prior meeting, she told Diana she would like her to raise the score, but it’s been a month without improvement.

  • Possible solution

To solve this problem, Jen could take a few different approaches. First, she could take time to reflect on her own leadership style and communication preferences to see if there’s anything she can do to improve. She could work to develop her leadership skills and verbal communication by signing up for a training session.

She can also make her expectations clearer by setting a specific objective for her team members. For example, she may say she wants the score to be at an 80% satisfaction rate by the end of the quarter. By setting a clear expectation, Diana can work toward this goal more purposefully. Jen may also provide resources and methods to help Diana reach this goal. Jen could also add a weekly check-in or other guidance.

3. Working style conflict

Working style conflicts can occur when people have different working preferences. For instance, some people prefer to work in a team while others like to work independently. Some prefer to work for long periods of time then take a longer break, while others prefer more frequent, shorter breaks. When completing a collaborative task, these differences can be challenging. Here’s an example and possible solution for this type of conflict:

  • Example

Ian is planning a presentation with a few of his colleagues. The presentation is three weeks away, and he prefers to divide large tasks into small daily steps. He wants to work on the presentation for 10 minutes every day until the meeting. One of his colleagues, Sue, prefers to complete tasks in larger sections. Sue wants to complete the task in one day, closer to the deadline.

  • Possible solution

Ian and Sue can help resolve this conflict by reviewing their shared goals and finding a solution together. The project is important to both of them, and by remembering that individuals have unique working styles, they can work to find a productive solution. For example, they may decide to compromise by meeting once a week until they complete the project.

4. Personality conflict

Personality conflicts are a common type of conflict in teams. Individuals have unique personalities that can occasionally clash with others in the workplace. It can be challenging to work with someone you disagree with, but it’s important to maintain a professional and positive environment. Here’s an example and possible solution for you to consider:

  • Example

Sarah is speaking in a meeting when her colleague, Greg, interrupts her. She decides it could be a mistake, and it’s best to focus on the positives in her relationship with Greg. In the next meeting, she notices Greg interrupts her a few more times and she cannot fully express her ideas.

  • Possible solution

With minor personality conflicts, it may be best to focus on the positive aspects of the relationship and remember everyone is unique. If a personality difference is affecting your work or creating tension, it’s best to address it early to help you maintain a professional relationship.

In this example, Sarah tried to focus on the positive in her relationship, but the issue persisted and is affecting her work. She can have a private conversation and let Greg know her feelings. He may not be aware of how his behaviour affects others, and an open conversation may resolve the conflict quickly. If the problem persists, Sarah can contact her team lead or manager for more guidance.

5. Background-based conflict

Professionals working together often come from different backgrounds. They may have unique values, beliefs or experiences. This can occasionally lead to conflicts. Here’s an example and possible solution for this type of conflict:

  • Example

Brian is a project manager, and he realizes one of his new team members, Kate, rarely shares her input during their group discussions. Brian expects all team members to contribute. In Kate’s last company, the managers expected the team members to listen until they called on them. She is waiting for Brian to call on her directly.

  • Possible solution

In this example, the colleagues have different professional backgrounds, and this is causing conflict. Brian can approach Kate and ask her to share her ideas with the group. Once Kate knows the expectations, she can share her ideas at the next meeting.

What are Some Early Signs of Conflict?

Conflict doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. There are always signs warning that a conflict is developing. Managers who know what these signs are can be more effective leaders by confronting the problem before it rages out of hand. By understanding conflict in the early stages, your organization will run much more smoothly and overall productivity levels will be increased considerably.

Read Also: The Impact of Internal Business Communication on Reputation

What are these subtle signs of conflict to look for?

Here are nine signs that indicate there is a problem brewing. These are not the only signs but are the most common. Keep in mind that anything that prohibits maximum productivity and positive interaction between employees and management are signs that something is amiss and needs to be addressed before it gets out of hand.

  • Dysfunctional meetings. Do staff meetings end up being gripe sessions instead of brainstorming sessions? Are there some people who always seem to dominate the conversation while others appear annoyed or distracted?
  • Anger. Any anger, but especially that which is an overreaction, needs to be addressed immediately. Anger is rarely the response for a first-time upset.
  • Productivity slowdowns. When people are not happy with the work environment, they tend to focus less on their work. Ask yourself if there has been a decline in the company’s productivity and try to pinpoint when it started.
  • High turn-over. If employees aren’t sticking around, there is a good reason. Nobody enjoys looking for a job, so the fact that people are leaving indicates an internal problem.
  • Inappropriate communications. This can be in the form of emails that are rude or use inappropriate language. Rudeness in speech or a disregard for another’s opinion is an indicator that something is going to blow up soon.
  • Anxiety. Are there certain individuals who seem anxious or on edge most of the time? Maybe they avoid social interactions, are always doubting their work or asking more than the normal amount of questions. Anxiety is often an indicator that there may be an issue festering on an interpersonal level.
  • Clique forming. Employees should be working as a team. If there seems to be a division into cliques or the same employees always seem to team up on projects, then the company isn’t functioning as one body and is not being as productive as possible.
  • Repetitive disagreements. Does it seem that the same employees always disagree? Is the conflict often over petty matters? There is a communication issue that needs to be confronted immediately.
  • Loss of trust. Through our years of work with client situations of unmanaged conflict, this is the factor that arises again and again. Trust is essential in any work environment, whether between employees or between employees and management. Another way to put it is this: Those teams with a high level of trust are, as research shows, the highest-performing teams. If there seems to be distrust within the company, it needs to be addressed.

If you happen to notice these or other indicators that trouble is brewing among your employees, do not assume that the issue will resolve itself – the situation needs to be addressed as early as possible by your team leader, HR staff, or yourself. In many cases, a professional conflict adviser can help everyone get to the core cause of the conflict and help resolve any issues. Consulting a conflict adviser could be your best next step.

By being proactive about these early warning signs, you give your company a chance to continue growing and running efficiently – and manage conflicts that could blow up and end up causing loss of employees, productivity and money. The costs of unmanaged conflict are real and measurable.


Conflict is part of our day-to-day lives. You can disagree with your family, friends, or coworkers. But, there are various conflict resolution steps you can embrace to ensure this issue is not manageable. Managing and resolving conflict at work is integral in meeting organizational goals.

So, if you have any problems or there are disagreements between your employers, look for ideal ways you can manage this situation. Above are some tips and techniques you can use to learn how to solve conflicts in the workplace.

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