Conflict Management Exercises and Activities To Use With Your Team

conflict management exercise

As a manager you should certainly be able to handle conflict.

Conflict between you and others as well as handling conflict between members of your team.

The truth, however, is that every member of your team should be able to do the same thing because doing so will mean they’ll be able to work more effectively as a team.

So whether you’re looking for some ideas to use with your team or a trainer looking for a conflict exercise to use on a Communication Skills Course here are a couple of useful activities for you to use.

Conflict resolution exercises

Conflict Activity: Four Words

Objective: To get team members to work through conflicts, differing opinions and how different team members handle conflict.


Step 1:

Each team member has a pen and a piece of paper. Ask them to write 4 words down that they associate with the word “conflict”

Step 2:

Ask them to pair up and between the two of them they must decide on the best 4 words out of the 8 they have written down between them. So the pair will have 4 words at the end.

Step 3:

Each pair will pair up with another pair and the process goes on again. Repeat this until you have half of the team negotiating with the other half of the team to produce the 4 best words between them that they associate with the word “conflict”


Ask the group:

  • How did they feel during the exercise?
  • Did anyone feel uncomfortable? Why?
  • Did anyone take control and overtake?
  • Was there any conflict?
  • Would you do anything differently?
  • What techniques did you use to come up with the 4 words?
  • What did you learn during this exercise?

ConflictDNA button

Conflict Activity: Divide The Loot

Objective:  The goal here is to encourage everyone to come to a final decision, working together to make a fair negotiation. It’s a good influencing skills example as well.

While we often suggest playing this game with real money, you can take some sort of play money to use instead.

Here’s how to play:

Step 1:

Divide your team into two groups so that one can be the “management” and the other can represent “employees.”

Step 2:

Each group will start it’s own “pot” of money. Each person will pay a different amount into the pot but no one will know how much anyone else put into the pot.

Step 3:

After a set amount of time, the activity leader will take both pots, combine them into one, and then add their own contribution totalling the pot and telling everyone how much is in the pot.

Step 4:

Everyone will know how much he contributed individually but no one will know how much anyone else, from their own team or the other, contributed. No one knows how much the activity leader contributed either.

Step 5:

The teams will each have 10 minutes to decide how to fairly split the total of the pot amongst everyone in the room. After 10 minutes the managers and employees must come together and negotiate a final outcome.

Try to keep the atmosphere in the room friendly. It is, after all, fake money and no one is going to lose anything at the end of the day!

Use the same style of debrief questions as above.

Conflict management ice breaker activity

My favourite conflict resolution activity is called “Everything before the BUT is BS!” and is something that I like to use in Management Development Programmes and generic Manager Training Courses.

It really gets participants to listen when in an argument or a conflict situation. Normally both parties are hell bent on winning that they don’t listen to the other person because they are too focused on what they are saying next.

This ice breaker activity changes that!

Conflict Activity: Everything Before The BUT is BS

Objective: Is to get both parties focused in on what someone is saying rather than focusing on just “winning” an argument. 

Step 1:

Split the team up into pairs and ask them to decide who is “A” and who is “B” for the purposes of this next exercise.

Step 2:

Pick a topic that is controversial in nature. For example here are a few for you:

  • Everyone should be able to work from home as many days as they like
  • Companies should offer unlimited holidays to everyone
  • Who will win the next election?

Think of some relevant topics at the time of you using this exercise.

Step 3:

Each pair has 5 minutes to win the argument. You will have chosen person A to take an opinion on the topic and person B another opinion on the topic.


  • Companies should offer unlimited holidays to everyone

Person A will argue for the motion. Person B will argue against it.

Step 4:

After the 5 minutes ask the following:

  • How did everyone find it?
  • Any lessons?
  • How did you feel?

Step 5:

Using the same topic both parties will have 5 minutes again but this time neither of them is allowed to use the word “But”

Each pair need to keep a tally of how many buts they used. 

Have the same debrief as before. The comments will amuse you.

See who said the most buts.

Step 6:

Once again both parties will have 5 minutes. Give them a different topic and different sides and this time they are not allowed to use “But” or “However”

Debrief again.

Step 7:

Overall debrief. 


  • Did you find that you listened harder?
  • Did you find that you had to respond to what the other person was saying?
  • Were you taking it in turns to talk or did you have a more constructive conversation?
  • What learning can you take forward?

Before I sign off, here are some more great resources to help you:

resolving conflict between employees
manage conflict within a team

Here are some of the main causes of conflict in the workplace for your information and also Lencioni’s model which discusses the five dysfunctions of a team – one of them actually being fear of conflict!


Thanks again,




Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training   

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Updated on: 29 May, 2020

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