Effective Strategies for Managing Conflict in the Workplace

Photograph of Jenefer Livings, Founder of Silk Helix Ltd
9 June 2023
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Conflict is an inevitable aspect of any workplace environment, I’d go a step further and say it’s important to have conflict. When individuals with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and interests come together, differences are bound to arise. It’s a sign of a healthy, diverse workplace to have some conflict and when managed effectively it can be a catalyst for positive change and growth within an organisation. That said, not all conflict is healthy, it’s important to understand the difference and take a proactive approach to managing conflict in the workplace, fostering a healthy and productive atmosphere for the whole team.

What causes workplace conflict?

According to research by the CIPD the biggest cause of conflict is personality clashes and the most common behaviour associated with conflict is lack of respect. Let’s put it simply, if you have to spend 8 hours a day together and one of you is introvert and the other is extrovert it’s highly likely there will be some conflict. This is just one easily recognisable personality difference, add in different backgrounds, perspectives and interests and there’s a lot of difference that can lead to conflict.

In my experience, Managers not having the skill to manage conflict is a key challenge. Whilst, it may not in itself cause conflict, not managing conflict allows it to fester and escalate. This could be simply not working with people to seek understanding of each other’s perspectives, allowing frustrations to grow and not dealing with incompetence or difficult people, all will result in conflict escalating. When conflict escalates it’s impacts widen, often resulting in people taking time off sick, looking for other employment or reduced motivation.

It’s less common but there are people who are simply disruptive or toxic in the workplace. These people and situations need to be managed. They will not resolve on their own and when they’re not tackled quickly they will grow and it will impact other people.

How to deal with conflict in the team

1. Deal with Toxic and Disruptive People

If people are behaving in a way that is toxic, disruptive, not inline with organisational values and goals or even not performing this needs to be managed. As an employer you can deal with these situations, often Managers I speak to feel powerless and you’re not, but the longer you leave it the harder it will be to deal with.

2. Promote Open Communication:

One of the key pillars of conflict management is establishing and maintaining open lines of communication. Encourage your team to express their concerns, ideas, and opinions freely. Create an environment where individuals feel safe and respected when sharing their thoughts, even if they differ from others. Listening is equally if not more important. When we listen we can understand the point of view of others, often people simply want to be heard but it also enables us to unpick what is really going on. Often what we see on the surface isn’t the underlying cause of conflict, this will only be understood when we truly listen and your team feels safe to speak to you.

3. Encourage Collaboration and Compromise:

The best solutions come when people are able to collaborate, discuss ideas freely, challenge each other and we value our differences. Creating a culture where healthy conflict enables people to present and discuss different ideas is good for business. Emphasise the importance of compromise and help employees recognize that they don’t always have to win every battle. Recognising and valuing the contribution of others for the best outcome for the team is key. By focusing on common goals and finding middle ground, individuals can reach resolutions that satisfy multiple parties, leading to better relationships and outcomes. This also means reaching agreement on the solutions and plan of action

4. Provide Mediation and Training for Managers:

In many cases, conflicts escalate due to a lack of conflict resolution skills. Managers should be given training to understand what they can do to manage problematic people in the team or in how to manage performance and absence. When managers are empowered and have the skills to deal with these challenging situations we see conflict decrease. However, it shouldn’t stop there, communication skills and conflict resolution skills are also important to help managers encourage healthy communication in their teams and resolve conflict quickly.

Many of us find conflict challenging, not everyone goes into the workplace with a good understanding of how to handle conflict and some will actively avoid it. Whilst avoiding conflict sounds great, in reality it can prevent good ideas being presented and leave people resentful and not performing at their best. Providing training to everyone to develop communication and problem solving skills can help to grow a healthy culture and reduce conflict.

5. Create a Culture of Respect and Inclusion:

Creating a culture of respect and inclusion is paramount to conflict management. Ensure that all employees are treated fairly and feel valued within the organisation. Embrace diversity and encourage diverse perspectives, as this can lead to innovative solutions and a broader understanding of complex issues. Celebrate differences, establish policies and provide training that addresses discrimination, harassment, and bias. When individuals feel respected and included, conflicts are less likely to arise, and if they do, they can be resolved.

6. Establish Clear Expectations and Boundaries:

Unclear expectations and boundaries often contribute to workplace conflicts. Ensure that roles, responsibilities, and performance expectations are clearly communicated to all employees. Implement policies and guidelines that outline acceptable behaviour and conduct within the organisation. This clarity helps prevent misunderstandings and minimises the chances of conflicts arising from unmet expectations.


Conflict, when approached with a constructive mindset, can be an opportunity for growth and innovation within an organisation. By implementing strategies such as promoting open communication, encouraging collaboration, providing training, fostering a culture of respect and inclusion, establishing clear expectations, and seeking mediation when needed, organisations can effectively manage conflicts and create a healthy work environment. Embracing conflict as a catalyst for positive change allows businesses to thrive, while your team feels supported, motivated, and valued.

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