Simple Steps To Resolve Conflict Between Two Employees

Angry worker shouting at colleagueOne of the most destructive problems at work is a conflict among employees.

When an argument breaks out between one or more colleagues, this often interferes with work, as individuals focus on personal issues rather than spend their time working.

Even if the team members do try to do their jobs, they have a hard time collaborating with those they are experiencing the conflict with.

Oftentimes, managers have to step in and help their subordinates resolve the conflict. The guide below will provide advice on how to do so.

How to resolve conflict between two employees

Don’t Avoid Conflict

Many people do not like dealing with conflict; the tension and possible hurt feelings associated with it make them uncomfortable, which leads them ignore it.

While it is reasonable for supervisors to provide employees with some times in the hopes that they will solve their problems on their own, eventually, if no resolution occurs, a manager must step in. Without any intervention, the conflict can simply get worse, creating chaos and bad energy in the office.

It’s important to remember that a positive conflict resolution can actually lead to improved interaction and mutual understanding at work.

Meet With Employees Individually

It is important to give each individual that is involved in the conflict a chance to speak his or her mind freely.

Therefore, managers should first sit down with each employee for a one-on-one chat. Give that person the time to speak about what is going on from his or her perspective, why he or she is hurt, and what can be done to remedy the issue.

Then, meet with the parties in a group setting to try and resolve the problem and reach an amicable solution.

Treat Each Situation Differently

Certain managers create an office culture where conflicts are not tolerated. Their approach to a resolution is to demand that staff members shake hands and move on.

Others ask their subordinates to come up with an amicable compromise that will make all the parties involved happy. However, a cookie-cutter solution cannot be applied to all the cases of conflict, as each situation requires an individual solution.

For example, if one employee is clearly in the wrong, offending a colleague that wronged party cannot be made to compromise.

The offending party needs to understand what they did wrong and apologise.

Office conflict should never be swept under the rug and ignored.

Managers need to be in charge of fostering an open communication space where employees feel free to express their emotions and grievances if they feel hurt or violated in any way.

Supervisors should attempt to help their team members deal with issues by utilising the advice in this article.

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Handling conflict between employees

Here are some areas for you to look out for. It’s important for you to be able to pinpoint the reasons behind the conflict. Both those you can see and those you can’t see!

Firstly, why did the conflict happen?

Some of the main reasons for conflict appear to be:

  • Disagreements over responsibilities (who should do what)
  • Disagreements over policy (how things should be done)
  • Conflicts of personality and style
  • Needing to be right rather than doing the right thing
  • Ego
  • Not being able to accept feedback

Some of the factors that affect how we behave in the face of conflict are:

  • Status: People in higher-status positions usually feel freer to engage in conflict and are less likely to avoid confrontation.
  • Gender differences: Males are generally encouraged to be more confrontational than females.
  • Learned behaviours: In some teams, conflict and confrontation are a communication style. In others, conflict always remains hidden.

Once you’ve taken this into account it’s time to move into conflict resolution mode!

Conflict in the workplace is damaging, traumatic and counter productive for all the individuals caught up in it. It becomes the responsibility of leadership to resolve the conflicts as fast as they can. There are several ways to resolve the conflicts to handle unpleasant situations at the workplace.

As more and more organisations are experiencing stress at workplace ultimately resulting in conflicts, more and more managers are concentrating towards conflict resolution.

As a result, it has become a complete field of study.

Introduction to conflict resolution – How does it work?

Conflict resolution, also known as “Conflictology” is an attempt to resolve a conflict (In this case, at a work place).

At a work place, where deadlines always heat up the atmosphere, rising conflicts is not a strange issue. They may arise out of the blue from any debate or differences. When the employees have to work together as a team, they have to work in great coordination with each other. A little lack of cooperation or careless attitude can unexpectedly give rise to conflicts.

As mentioned above conflict can be differences in terms of class, rank, power, and behavioural attitudes. The role of conflict resolution is to help in avoiding the negative circumstances that may be caused as a result of disputes, controversies, and other methods used to resolve conflict. With conflict resolution, the conflicts can be dealt with quickly and overtly.

How to handle unpleasant situation at work place

The job of conflict resolution is to end the conflicts prior to they occur or cause any verbal, physical, or legal dispute. Conflict resolution can be successful by giving people a platform to speak and listening to them, offering them equal opportunities to work to meet each other’s needs. The team leader or the manager has to properly deal with their interests so that they remain satisfied with the result.

There are different ways to deal with the conflict at work place:

  • Direct Approach

The direct approach is the best approach among all others, which focuses on the leader, who deals with the issue directly.

However, conflicts are not so easy or comfortable to deal with; it brings up a time which is the best to introspect at the issues impartially. One has to face the conflicts as they are. If you need to criticise to emphasise your point, you have to make it positive in tone for the recipients.

The direct approach depends more on the skills of solving problems. It usually brings a sense of motion, as the conflict has been brought to the surface and has to be dealt with and controlled.

  • Negotiation

The most effective conflict resolution takes place directly between the employees who have opposing views. This stage is known as negotiation, which is the conventional way of bargaining tough where the interests of a group far overshadow the concerned working relationships.

A third party makes use of the most efficient way of bargaining where both the parties have certain ideas about a solution but they cannot find a common position, acceptable for both sides. In this situation, the role of a project manager or a team leader is required. They, due to the positions they have, can help in finding out the best compromise.

For finding the middle ground to resolve the conflict, there has to be a give and take on both the sides. However, most of the times, it generally concludes with both the parties remaining dissatisfied. To find the middle ground in the spur of the conflict is not easy. For a fair judgement, a negotiator has to look at the both interests and working relationships as important.

  • Enforcing Team Rules

Enforcing team rules for conflict resolution does not have a good success rate and is mostly considered best avoided, if possible.

There is a possibility for this method to bring out hard feelings towards not only the leader but the whole team. However, it helps in observing strict discipline at once. This method should be employed at the time when you know it for sure that a member does not want to remain in the team. The best way of resolving the conflict here is to help the person to find out another team.

  • Leave untouched

A negotiator can leave the conflict untouched in the situation when the conflict is actually not so real to start with. You need to simply avoid it or work around it, by not directly interfering in the conflict. This helps in delaying things long enough for the person to pacify. This method of conflict resolution is a tricky one and needs high level of judgement from the leadership whether the situation is fit enough to leave untouched or not.

If used by an experienced leader at the right time and environment, the technique of not interfering in the conflict can be the best way to avoid minor incidents, which usually arise due to occasional bad mood and get blown up to be real problems that should not have happened otherwise.

There are always 3 sides to the story when managing conflict between employees…

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes:

‘There are three sides to every story; yours, theirs and the truth!’

It is absolutely crucial to think of this quote when dealing with conflict in the workplace.

Conflict happens in most workplaces at some stage – there will be clashes in the heat of the moment. It is important to take both employees aside and gather each side of the story.

You can then (nine times out of ten) deduce what has happened by putting aside any sensationalised accusations or exaggerations made by either party.

In terms of the workplace conflict, this would involve sitting the pair in the same room and discussing the conflict. Look for the root cause; look for a solution so this root grows no further.

I cannot stress how important it is to deal with conflict in the workplace immediately – an employee with low morale will be nowhere near as productive. Remember – we spend most of our week with the people we work with – it would be demoralising for everybody involved if the environment where they work is unhappy and, at times, hostile.

Remember that conflict should not be dealt with in front of an audience.

Never air your dirty laundry – when dealing with office conflict privacy is essential. Some managers take the employees in question out for a walk, a coffee or out in their cars, just to take them out of the environment where the conflict took place and to remind them that there is more to life than what goes on in the office.

Obviously all people are different and have different characteristics – so do take this into account when dealing with conflict.

Not all people will respond well to the same methods – so do bear that in mind.

So in closing, remember that there are three sides to every story!

Here’s another great resource to help you. Click below:

manage conflict within a team


Thanks again,




Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training   

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Updated on: 20 April, 2015

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