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5 Strategies for Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Business leader resolving workplace conflict

  • 07 Sep 2023

Any scenario in which you live, work, and collaborate with others is susceptible to conflict. Because workplaces are made up of employees with different backgrounds, personalities, opinions, and daily lives, discord is bound to occur. To navigate it, it’s crucial to understand why it arises and your options for resolving it.

Common reasons for workplace conflict include:

  • Misunderstandings or poor communication skills
  • Differing opinions, viewpoints, or personalities
  • Biases or stereotypes
  • Variations in learning or processing styles
  • Perceptions of unfairness

Although conflict is common, many don’t feel comfortable handling it—especially with colleagues. As a business leader, you’ll likely clash with other managers and need to help your team work through disputes.

Here’s why conflict resolution is important and five strategies for approaching it.

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Why Is Addressing Workplace Conflict Important?

Pretending conflict doesn’t exist doesn’t make it go away. Ignoring issues can lead to missed deadlines, festering resentment, and unsuccessful initiatives.

Yet, according to coaching and training firm Bravely , 53 percent of employees handle “toxic” situations by avoiding them. Worse still, averting a difficult conversation can cost an organization $7,500 and more than seven workdays.

That adds up quickly: American businesses lose $359 billion yearly due to the impact of unresolved conflict.

As a leader, you have a responsibility to foster healthy conflict resolution and create a safe, productive work environment for employees.

“Some rights, such as the right to safe working conditions or the right against sexual harassment, are fundamental to the employment relationship,” says Harvard Business School Professor Nien-hê Hsieh in the course Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability . “These rights are things that employees should be entitled to no matter what. They’re often written into the law, but even when they aren’t, they’re central to the ethical treatment of others, which involves respecting the inherent dignity and intrinsic worth of each individual.”

Effectively resolving disputes as they arise benefits your employees’ well-being and your company’s financial health. The first step is learning about five conflict resolution strategies at your disposal.

Related: How to Navigate Difficult Conversations with Employees

While there are several approaches to conflict, some can be more effective than others. The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Model —developed by Dr. Kenneth W. Thomas and Dr. Ralph H. Kilmann—outlines five strategies for conflict resolution:

  • Accommodating
  • Compromising
  • Collaborating

These fall on a graph, with assertiveness on the y-axis and cooperativeness on the x-axis. In the Thomas-Kilmann model, “assertiveness” refers to the extent to which you try to reach your own goal, and “cooperativeness” is the extent to which you try to satisfy the other party’s goal.

Alternatively, you can think of these axis labels as the “importance of my goal” and the “importance of this relationship.” If your assertiveness is high, you aim to achieve your own goal. If your cooperativeness is high, you strive to help the other person reach theirs to maintain the relationship.

Here’s a breakdown of the five strategies and when to use each.

1. Avoiding

Avoiding is a strategy best suited for situations in which the relationship’s importance and goal are both low.

While you’re unlikely to encounter these scenarios at work, they may occur in daily life. For instance, imagine you’re on a public bus and the passenger next to you is loudly playing music. You’ll likely never bump into that person again, and your goal of a pleasant bus ride isn’t extremely pressing. Avoiding conflict by ignoring the music is a valid option.

In workplace conflicts—where your goals are typically important and you care about maintaining a lasting relationship with colleagues—avoidance can be detrimental.

Remember: Some situations require avoiding conflict, but you’re unlikely to encounter them in the workplace.

2. Competing

Competing is another strategy that, while not often suited for workplace conflict, can be useful in some situations.

This conflict style is for scenarios in which you place high importance on your goal and low importance on your relationships with others. It’s high in assertiveness and low in cooperation.

You may choose a competing style in a crisis. For instance, if someone is unconscious and people are arguing about what to do, asserting yourself and taking charge can help the person get medical attention quicker.

You can also use it when standing up for yourself and in instances where you feel unsafe. In those cases, asserting yourself and reaching safety is more critical than your relationships with others.

When using a competing style in situations where your relationships do matter (for instance, with a colleague), you risk impeding trust—along with collaboration, creativity, and productivity.

3. Accommodating

The third conflict resolution strategy is accommodation, in which you acquiesce to the other party’s needs. Use accommodating in instances where the relationship matters more than your goal.

For example, if you pitch an idea for a future project in a meeting, and one of your colleagues says they believe it will have a negative impact, you could resolve the conflict by rescinding your original thought.

This is useful if the other person is angry or hostile or you don’t have a strong opinion on the matter. It immediately deescalates conflict by removing your goal from the equation.

While accommodation has its place within organizational settings, question whether you use it to avoid conflict. If someone disagrees with you, simply acquiescing can snuff out opportunities for innovation and creative problem-solving .

As a leader, notice whether your employees frequently fall back on accommodation. If the setting is safe, encouraging healthy debate can lead to greater collaboration.

Related: How to Create a Culture of Ethics and Accountability in the Workplace

4. Compromising

Compromising is a conflict resolution strategy in which you and the other party willingly forfeit some of your needs to reach an agreement. It’s known as a “lose-lose” strategy, since neither of you achieve your full goal.

This strategy works well when your care for your goal and the relationship are both moderate. You value the relationship, but not so much that you abandon your goal, like in accommodation.

For example, maybe you and a peer express interest in leading an upcoming project. You could compromise by co-leading it or deciding one of you leads this one and the other the next one.

Compromising requires big-picture thinking and swallowing your pride, knowing you won’t get all your needs fulfilled. The benefits are that you and the other party value your relationship and make sacrifices to reach a mutually beneficial resolution.

5. Collaborating

Where compromise is a lose-lose strategy, collaboration is a win-win. In instances of collaboration, your goal and the relationship are equally important, motivating both you and the other party to work together to find an outcome that meets all needs.

An example of a situation where collaboration is necessary is if one of your employees isn’t performing well in their role—to the point that they’re negatively impacting the business. While maintaining a strong, positive relationship is important, so is finding a solution to their poor performance. Framing the conflict as a collaboration can open doors to help each other discover its cause and what you can do to improve performance and the business’s health.

Collaboration is ideal for most workplace conflicts. Goals are important, but so is maintaining positive relationships with co-workers. Promote collaboration whenever possible to find creative solutions to problems . If you can’t generate a win-win idea, you can always fall back on compromise.

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Considering Your Responsibilities as a Leader

As a leader, not only must you address your own conflicts but help your employees work through theirs. When doing so, remember your responsibilities to your employees—whether ethical, legal, or economic.

Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability groups your ethical responsibilities to employees into five categories:

  • Well-being: What’s ultimately good for the person
  • Rights: Entitlement to receive certain treatment
  • Duties: A moral obligation to behave in a specific way
  • Best practices: Aspirational standards not required by law or cultural norms
  • Fairness: Impartial and just treatment

In the course, Hsieh outlines three types of fairness you can use when helping employees solve conflicts:

  • Legitimate expectations: Employees reasonably expect certain practices or behaviors to continue based on experiences with the organization and explicit promises.
  • Procedural fairness: Managers must resolve issues impartially and consistently.
  • Distributive fairness: Your company equitably allocates opportunities, benefits, and burdens.

Particularly with procedural fairness, ensure you don’t take sides when mediating conflict. Treat both parties equally, allowing them time to speak and share their perspectives. Guide your team toward collaboration or compromise, and work toward a solution that achieves the goal while maintaining—and even strengthening—relationships.

Are you interested in learning how to navigate difficult decisions as a leader? Explore Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability —one of our online leadership and management courses —and download our free guide to becoming a more effective leader.

conflict at work essay

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How to Manage Conflict at Work

Learn how to manage conflict at work by using these workplace conflict skills and strategies..

By Katie Shonk — on January 16th, 2024 / Conflict Resolution

conflict at work essay

Sooner or later, almost all of us will find ourselves trying to cope with how to manage conflict at work. At the office, we may struggle to work through high-pressure situations with people with whom we have little in common. We need a special set of strategies to calm tempers, restore order, and meet each side’s interests.

The following three strategies will help you learn how to manage conflict at work.

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1. Put formal systems in place.

Conflict in the workplace often arises when resentment, anger, and other negative emotions are left to fester. An accidental slight can lead into a full-blown dispute if the parties involved fail to address it explicitly. As a consequence, workplace conflict is often managed one dispute at a time, an approach that is inefficient and costly.

In recent years, organizations seeking to determine how to manage conflict at work increasingly have recognized the benefits of putting in place a formalized system for addressing conflict in the workplace . In an article in the Negotiation Briefings newsletter, Harvard Law School professors Frank E. A. Sander and Robert C. Bordone recommend that organizations engage in dispute system design —the process of diagnosing, designing, implementing, and evaluating an effective method of resolving conflicts in an organization. Those with basic experience with dispute-resolution processes such as negotiation, mediation, and arbitration, should be able to help their organization establish a dispute-resolution process.

One of the main goals of dispute system design, or DSD, should be to support low-cost, less invasive approaches to managing workplace conflict before moving on to more costly, riskier approaches. For example, an organization might encourage or require employees in conflict to engage in mediation before moving on to an arbitration hearing. In addition, write Sander and Bordone, employees should be able to tap into the dispute-resolution process at different points throughout the organization—for example, through their supervisor, an HR staff member, or some other leader—lest they avoid the system due to distrust of one person in particular.

Setting up a dispute system can be a complex process, but it will almost inevitably promote a more efficient means of managing workplace conflict than a case-by-case approach.

2. Promote better feedback.

Workplace conflict often arises because co-workers have difficulty giving one another effective feedback, or any feedback at all. When we fail to let people know how they can improve, our frustration grows as their mistakes mount. Similarly, if we give unconstructive feedback—feedback that is vague, very negative, or too personal—we can create destructive workplace conflict.

We need to learn to give more effective feedback and teach others in our organization to deliver meaningful and useful feedback as well. People who give good feedback ask questions, stay positive, give details, and describe how the situation makes them feel, writes Program on Negotiation managing director Susan Hackley in Negotiation Briefings . Leaders also need to make it easy for people to raise concerns.

In their 2014 book Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well , Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen offer advice on accepting feedback in a constructive manner—even when the feedback isn’t delivered constructively. We all need to learn to identify personal triggers that cause us to take perceived criticism personally, for example.

3. Focus on the problem, not the people.

When deciding how to manage conflict at work, try to focus on the problem rather than the personalities involved, recommends Hackley. Because conflict tends to promote competition and antagonism, you should strive to frame the situation in a positive light. For example, focus on the potential benefits to the organization if you are able to resolve the workplace conflict rather than on the potential negatives if you have difficulty doing so.

In addition, when dealing with conflict at work, remember that people tend to view conflicts quite differently, based on their individual perspective. Our perceptions of what went wrong tend to be self-serving. With each person believing he or she is “right” and the other person is “wrong,” it’s no wonder conflicts often fester in organizations.

For this reason, it’s crucial to start off your workplace conflict resolution efforts by taking a joint problem-solving approach. Ask open-ended questions and test your assumptions, advises Hackley. Make sure that each party has ample time to express his or her views without interruption.

When figuring out how to manage conflict at work, we need to remember the importance of exploring the deeper interests underlying the other party’s positions. When you listen closely, you will go a long way toward building trust and resolving difficult situations.

Does your organization have a formal process for resolving workplace disputes?

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Conflict Resolution

8 ways to resolve conflict in the workplace.

By the Mind Tools Content Team

Where there are people, there is conflict. We each have our values, needs and habits, so it's easy to misunderstand or irritate one another – or worse, to fall into conflict.

Left unchecked, conflict can lead to bad decisions and outright disputes, bullying or harassment. Teamwork breaks down, morale drops, and projects grind to a halt. Organizations feel the hit with wasted talent, high absenteeism, and increased staff turnover.

But conflict can be resolved. What's more, it can bring issues to light, strengthen relationships, and spark innovation – so long as you don't try to ignore it!

In this article, we'll explore different types of conflict, what causes conflict, and how to reach a positive outcome when you find yourself in conflict with a co-worker. (To identify the signs of conflict occurring between other people and to help them overcome their conflict with one another, we recommend our follow-on article, Resolving Team Conflict .)

Conflict Resolution Definition

Generally, workplace conflicts fall into two categories:

  • Personality conflict or disagreements between individuals. These clashes are driven and perpetuated by emotions such as anger, stress and frustration.
  • Substantive conflict is tangible and task-related, like the decisions leaders make, the performance of a team member, or your company's direction.

If unaddressed, both can spiral into wider conflict between teams, departments or businesses. Conflict resolution can be defined as the process of identifying, addressing, and resolving disagreements or disputes among employees in a professional setting, thereby fostering a positive and productive work environment.

What Causes Conflict at Work?

Some of the most common causes of workplace conflict are:

  • Unclear responsibilities . Some team members may feel they do more work than others, or resent those who seem to have fewer responsibilities. Blame and frustration can build due to duplicated work or unfinished tasks.
  • Competition for resources . Time, money, materials, equipment, and skillsets are finite resources. Competition for them can lead to conflict.
  • Different interests . People may focus on personal or departmental goals over organizational ones. Or be held up and frustrated by others who they rely on to do their jobs effectively.

Read our article on Bell and Hart's Eight Causes of Conflict for more sources of – and solutions to – disputes.

Five Conflict Resolution Strategies

When you find yourself in a conflict situation, these five strategies will help you to resolve disagreements quickly and effectively:

1. Raise the Issue Early

Keeping quiet only lets resentment fester. Equally, speaking with other people first can fuel rumor and misunderstanding.

So, whether you're battling over the thermostat or feel that you're being micromanaged, be direct and talk with the other party. However, if you're afraid of making that approach, or worry that it may make the problem worse, speak with your manager first, or your HR department if the other party is your manager.

Either way, be assertive (not aggressive) and speak openly. This will encourage others to do the same – and you can get to the root cause of a problem before it escalates.

2. Manage Your Emotions

Choose your timing when you talk to someone about the conflict. If you're angry, you may say something you'll regret and inflame the situation. Be careful to avoid playing the blame game .

So stay calm, collect yourself, and ask, "What is it I want to achieve here?", "What are the issues I'm having?" and "What is it that I would like to see?"

See our article Managing Your Emotions at Work for more insight and tips.

3. Show Empathy

When you talk to someone about a conflict, it's natural to want to state your own case, rather than hear out the other side. But when two people do this, the conversation goes in circles.

Instead, invite the other party to describe their position, ask how they think they might resolve the issue, and listen with empathy .

Putting yourself in the other person's shoes is an essential part of negotiation. This helps you to build mutual respect and understanding – and to achieve an outcome that satisfies both parties.

4. Practice Active Listening

To identify the source of the conflict you have to really listen. To listen actively:

  • Paraphrase the other party's points to show you're listening and really understand them.
  • Look out for non-verbal signals that contradict what they are saying, such as a hesitant tone behind positive words. Bring these out into the open sensitively to address them together.
  • Use appropriate body language , such as nodding your head, to show interest and to make it clear that you're following them.

Go further with Empathic Listening or Mindful Listening .

5. Acknowledge Criticism

Some of the things the other person tells you may be difficult to hear. But remember that criticism or constructive feedback is about job behaviors and not you as a person.

So, keep an open mind and use criticism to help you to identify areas to improve, perform better next time, and grow.

Glasers' Three-Step Strategy for Conflict Resolution

Conflict management consultants Peter and Susan Glaser recommend a three-step strategy for resolving conflict, and it draws on many of the skills we've looked at above. You can hear the Glasers talking about their model in our exclusive interview with them. [1]

The steps for these conflict resolution skills are:

  • Prove that you understand their side.
  • Acknowledge that you are part of the problem.
  • Try again if the conversation didn't go well.

Let's try a training exercise and apply each step to a fictional conflict resolution scenario.

Conflict Resolution Training Example

Imagine that the heads of two departments are in conflict. Product Manager Sayid changed the price of a product without letting Marketing Manager Gayanne know. As a result, the marketing team sent out an email to customers with incorrect prices. They had to send out a follow-up email apologizing for the error, and make good on the price some customers paid for the product.

1. Prove That You Understand Their Side

Instead of blaming Sayid, Gayanne asks him how he came to make the decision. She uses her questioning and listening skills to get the information she needs and to show that she's truly hearing Sayid's response.

She discovers that Sayid was pressured by a major client to drop the price or risk losing a contract. She empathizes , saying, "Yes, I've had difficulties with that client before, too."

As Susan Glaser says, "Only when you believe that I understand you, will you be willing to try to understand my perspective." [2]

2. Acknowledge That You Are Part of the Problem

If you're in conflict with someone, it's unlikely you're free of all blame. So admit your part in it. This leads to mutual trust, a better understanding of one another, and makes it easier to find a solution.

In our scenario, Gayanne could say to Sayid, "I should have shared our marketing strategy and email send dates with you. I'll do that right away."

3. Try Again if the Conversation Doesn't Go Well

Despite the progress they've made, relations between the two managers remain frosty, so Sayid calls Gayanne the following week. He says, "I was thinking about our conversation, and I'd like to try again because I'm not happy with how it went. I've had time to take your points on board, and I'd like to talk about how we can work together better going forward."

Remember that you get more than one shot at resolving a conflict. Susan Glaser says, "There's a myth that if we have a bad conversation with someone it's over. In fact, 'do overs' are powerful." [3]

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is conflict resolution important in the workplace?

Unresolved conflicts can hinder productivity and damage team dynamics. Effective conflict resolution helps maintain a positive work environment, promotes collaboration, and ensures issues are addressed before they escalate.

What are some common sources of workplace conflicts?

Workplace conflicts can arise from differences in communication styles, conflicting goals, personality clashes, misunderstandings, resource allocation, or competing priorities. Recognizing these sources is crucial for timely intervention.

How can a team manager effectively address conflicts among team members?

A team manager should act as a mediator and facilitator. Begin by listening to both sides, understanding perspectives, and acknowledging emotions. Encourage open dialogue, find common ground, and work together to find a solution that is fair and beneficial for all parties.

What strategies can managers employ to prevent conflicts from escalating?

Managers can implement proactive measures such as fostering a transparent communication culture, setting clear expectations, defining roles and responsibilities, and promoting team-building activities. By addressing potential sources of conflict early on, managers can prevent minor issues from turning into major disputes.

How does effective conflict resolution contribute to team productivity?

Resolving conflicts promptly maintains a harmonious working environment where team members feel valued and understood. This leads to improved morale, increased focus on tasks, and a more efficient workflow, ultimately enhancing overall team productivity.

When is it appropriate to involve higher management in conflict resolution?

Involving higher management should be considered when conflicts cannot be resolved at the team level or when the conflicts involve larger organizational issues. Higher management can provide a neutral perspective and additional resources to facilitate resolution.

Conflict is common in the workplace. The biggest mistake you can make is to do nothing. Unresolved tensions can affect the health and performance of people and organizations.

So, hone these five conflict resolution skills to pre-empt, manage and fix conflicts with your co-workers:

  • Raise the issue early.
  • Manage your emotions.
  • Show empathy.
  • Practice active listening.
  • Acknowledge criticism.

Then try the Glasers' three-step conflict resolution strategy to resolve issues together:

  • Try again if the conversation doesn't go well.

In the process, you may even discover positives such as improved processes, strengthened relationships, and innovation!

[1] [2] [3] Mind Tools interview with Peter A. Glaser, Ph.D. and Susan R. Glaser. Available here .

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Essay on Managing Conflict at Work

Workplace conflict is a fact of life in almost every company on the planet. Conflict is a natural result of people working together, even though many people and organizations view it as a negative activity that should be avoided (Capozzoli, 2018). If not handled properly, dealing with disagreement at work can be highly stressful for the entire team. If one handle disagreement properly, it may have a really good effect, which can help with corporate output. To effectively manage conflict, one must first understand the reasons for the dispute, then plan how to deal with it, and then end the issue by devising solutions that benefit the team.

Causes of Conflict

Capozzoli is a brand of pasta made by Capozz (2018) “Just because people work on the same team does not guarantee they will get along or agree on everything” (p. 7). There are a variety of reasons why conflict arises at work. Backstabbing, criticizing, blaming, purposefully undermining others, hoarding information, and caring exclusively about personal agendas are among the most prevalent and damaging toxic behaviours we encounter, according to Curnow-Chavez (2018). (over team and company goals). Harmful actions do not always cause conflict. Different beliefs, attitudes, needs, expectations, perceptions, and personalities are some reasons for conflict. Whatever the source of the conflict, it should be handled professionally.

Getting ready to talk about a conflict

When dealing with conflict, preparation is essential. One must have a thorough knowledge of the source of the conflict. Gabby (2018) proposes a four-step method for keeping the conversation on course and achieving a favourable outcome: She recommends first focusing on how the problem affects the organization’s goal, then attempting to differentiate the issue or danger, then planning what one want to say, considering all sides and all options, and being prepared with neutral replies, and then having the discussion. The most difficult task will be talking. One will want to make sure one mention the behaviour’s influence on the entire team. Things are more likely to go smoothly if one prepare for the discussion, making resolving disagreement an easier process.

Dispute Resolution

Individualism and competitiveness are essential to the ethos of most American businesses (Capozzoli, 2018). As a result, conflict is certain to arise and can be difficult to overcome. On the other hand, productive conflict resolution is learning to argue productively about topics and circumstances and coming up with a solution that benefits the entire team (Capozzoli, 2018). Allow members to share their perceptions of the issue after the talk to try to comprehend each other’s perspectives. Allow each person to come up with their answer and see if one can come up with anything that falls somewhere in the middle. It is necessary to put the best option into action when selected (Capozzoli, 2018). Provide solution paperwork and ensure that all parties are aware of the terms. According to Capozzoli (2018), “conflict will become a successful element only when individuals are free to bring out and appreciate diverse points of view and discuss them in an open atmosphere” (p. 8).

Finally, workplace disagreement is frequent in nearly every firm, but how one handle it may influence how oner company grows. No one wants to have to hire new employees every time a disagreement arises. Therefore management must handle conflict properly. Team members can mend connections and learn from one another as a result of the conflict. Managing workplace conflict will never be simple, but by planning ahead of time how to handle it, one may at least increase oner chances of a favourable ending. Positive outcomes will lead to increased output and a less stressful atmosphere.

Capozzoli, T. K. (2018). Conflict resolution: A key ingredient in successful terms. Supervision, 79(9), 6–8. Retrieved from  https://www.highbeam.com

Curnow-Chavez, A. (2018, April 04). 4 ways to deal with a toxic coworker. Harvard Business Review Digital Articles, 2–5. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/most-popular

Gabby, A. E. (2018). How to prepare for difficult conversations. Volunteer Management Report, 23(11), 3. http://dx.doi.org/DOI: 10.1002/VMR

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Effective Ways to Handle Conflict in the Workplace, Essay Example

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Conflicts are an essential component of any organization’s performance. Conflicts may stem from employees’ dissatisfaction with the conditions of work, from cultural and ethnic disagreements with co-workers and managers, from unequal pay and unfair performance appraisal and even from increasing workloads and emotional difficulties/ stress. However, that organizations perceive conflicts as a source of productive change does not mean that workplace conflicts do not need effective resolution. Organizations, employees, and HR professionals should possess skills and knowledge, to resolve their conflicts effectively. Alternative conflict resolution approaches, conflict resolution policies, and conflict resolution systems are among the most reliable approaches to handling workplace conflicts; but they are gradually giving place to other, more innovative and productive conflict resolution techniques similar to Integrative Management solutions.

Workplace conflicts: types and features of workplace conflicts

A conflict (and workplace conflict, in particular) is a disagreement between parties, which threatens their needs, concerns, and interests (Blackard 57). In other words, a workplace conflict is a form of disagreement that occurs in the workplace and threatens interests, needs, and concerns of the parties involved. Workplace conflicts can occur at any level of the organization and organizational structure, and employees are the ones most frequently involved in interpersonal conflicts in the workplace (Liberman, Levy & Segal 64). Literature describes five different of workplace conflicts. These include factual, interpersonal, legal, professional conflicts, and conflicting opinions on workplace policy issues (Liberman, Levy & Segal 64). The major causes of workplace conflicts cover organizational culture, the amount of workplace autonomy, the extent of employee specialization, organization’s policies and rules, management style, communication, workloads, and the level of workplace stress (Liberman, Levy & Segal 64). Disagreement about the methods of cooperation is the most frequent cause of interpersonal conflicts between employees (Liberman, Levy & Segal 64).

Because cooperation is necessarily linked to the quality of every employee’s performance and the results of every employee’s work, it is natural that such conflicts result in strong feelings, hot opposition, and acute stress, and can even be potentially destructive to all parties (Liberman, Levy & Segal 64). The intensity of workplace conflicts directly relates to the organizational significance of the parties involved. That means that conflicts between an employee and a supervisor are more serious and more complex compared with conflicts between employees because of the degree of risks and uncertainties that accompany such conflicts. According to Liberman, Levy and Segal, “conflict with supervisors can generate concern about job security, cause a loss of interest in the job, and damage the employee’s sense of self-worth and ability to socialize” (64). Taking into account the level of stress and anxiety which such conflicts may cause in employees, it is obvious that unresolved conflicts are likely to pay high price for organizations and their workers. Unresolved workplace conflicts usually reflect in higher turnover, poorer performance, ineffective decision-making, absenteeism, declining motivation, and higher costs (Liberman, Levy & Segal 65). That is why effective resolution of workplace conflicts is vital for the continuous organizational success and can even serve the source of sustained competitive advantage.

Resolving workplace conflicts: weighing available options

Managers and HR professionals in organizations can always choose to witness silently the development of a conflict between the disputants. They can also grant the third party the right to monitor and control the process of resolving the conflict. These approaches to workplace conflict resolution give employees some degree of autonomy, and can help them to learn the best ways or resolving conflicts with their colleagues. Yet, giving employees freedom to control the process of conflict resolution is not always the best choice, for the parties involved in a workplace conflict have conflicting interests and do not possess information needed to resolve their conflict in a productive way (Blackard 58). Conflicts that involve a third party or are resolved by force cannot be effective because they do not address interests of either party and do not help to resolve the underlying problems (Blackard 58). That is why alternative dispute resolution, dispute resolution policies, and conflict resolution systems are among the most popular and most effective means to handle workplace conflicts.

Alternative dispute resolution is fairly regarded as a minimal approach to resolving workplace conflicts, because managers can use this method to encourage employees to surface conflict (e.g., through an open-door policy) or to provide employees with training, which will help them to resolve their conflict effectively (Blackard 58). Alternative dispute resolution techniques in organizations utilize hidden employee potentials and capabilities, and training/ communication add to the skills and abilities, which employees can use to avoid or to quickly resolve emerging workplace controversies. Alternative dispute resolution is an effective method of resolving workplace conflicts before they grow into litigation. This form of handling workplace conflicts is less risky and more effective compared to those, which are used at later stages of conflict. Nevertheless, ADR is not effective in itself because it cannot obligate employees to choose one particular method of dispute resolution. Thus, the results of ADR application in the workplace depend on a whole complex of conditions and factors.

Organizations often apply to dispute resolution policies, which communicate the basic principles of conflict resolution, are implemented at all levels of the organizational structure and before the conflict occurs, and provide management with better opportunities to control the process of resolving workplace conflicts (Blackard 59). For example, such policies can require that employees involved in a workplace conflict ask HR professionals for assistance or request voluntary mediation in resolving their conflicts (Blackard 59). Open-door policies, the chain of command, and professional assistance are some of the most frequent elements which companies usually include into their dispute resolution policies; the latter are designed to offer a straightforward procedure of conflict resolution, which any employee will be able to use in case of a workplace conflict (Blackard 59). Such policies do not make workplace conflicts less rare; nor do they reduce the severity of workplace conflicts, but they make the process of handling any workplace conflict easier, less expensive, and more productive. “Since such policies usually rely on employees to take the initiative and contemplate only a reactive role from management, the effort and cost associated with their ongoing administration is minimal” (Blackard 59). These policies, however, represent an intermediate stage between simpler alternative dispute techniques and more complex systems of conflict resolution in organizations.

Conflict resolution systems represent a complex solution to workplace conflicts, which organizations can develop and implement to reduce the risks of counterproductive conflicts and to create conditions necessary to timely surface and resolve conflicts that do occur (Blackard 59). To design these systems, organizations can use various components, including policies, HR strategies, point persons and departments, ombuds, voluntary mediation, panels, neutral fact-finding processes, and even independent counsels (Blackard 59). Unfortunately, such systems have their price and only large organizations can afford developing and implementing this form of conflict resolution techniques. Managers in any organization should always think of how to reduce the cost of counterproductive conflict and to improve the quality of organization’s performance.

In the context of workplace conflict resolution, interactive management came to exemplify a novel approach to resolving conflicts that occur in workplace environments. In complex terms, “the Interactive Management system is designed to fully utilize multiple voices in helping the group identify the relevant dimensions of the problem situation” (Broome et al 259). Interactive Management makes it possible for the parties involved in a workplace conflict to evaluate the situation from multiple perspectives. Interactive Management recognizes that using a variety of perspectives is crucial to those, who seek to resolve a workplace conflict effectively (Broome et al 259). Interactive Management usually involves several stages: (1) developing an understanding of the conflict situation; (2) establishing a collective basis of thinking about the problem and its potential resolution; (3) creating a framework for effective resolution (Blackard 243). As the parties involved in a workplace conflict move through these stages, they acquire a better sense of understanding the situation, learn better communication and knowledge sharing skills, and can use them to productively manage and resolve any workplace conflict. It should be noted, that these are just the few out of numerous methods to handle workplace conflict. Organizations are encouraged to develop policies and procedures that will help them timely identify and prevent conflicts between employees and between them and management. Simultaneously, there is still a long road ahead employees possess skills and knowledge necessary for them to avoid the conflict at all levels of their organizational performance.

Conflict is considered as an essential component of any organization’s performance: that conflicts often lead to effective solutions of organizational problems is a well-known fact. Yet, unresolved conflicts result in poorer organizational performance. HR professionals possess a wide choice of techniques and solutions, which they can use to handle workplace conflicts effectively. Alternative dispute resolution techniques, conflict resolution policies and systems have already become inseparable from the major organizational policies and procedures. Today, however, conventional conflict resolution techniques gradually give place to more innovative approaches to handling workplace conflicts, and here, Interactive management is likely to become the determining trend in handling workplace conflicts.

Works Cited

Blackard, K. “Assessing Workplace Conflict Resolution Options.” Dispute Resolution Journal, 56.1 (2001): 57-62. Print.

Broome, B.J., DeTurk, S., Kristjandsottir, E.S., Kanata, T. & Ganesan, P. “Giving Voice to Diversity: An Interactive Approach to Conflict Management and Decision-Making in Culturally Diverse Work Environments”. Journal of Business and Management, 8.3 (2002): 239-264. Print.

Liberman, E., Levy, Y.F. & Segal, P. “Designing an Internal Organizational System for Conflict Management Based on Needs Assessment.” Dispute Resolution Journal, 12.642 (2009): 62-74. Print

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Home — Essay Samples — Sociology — Conflict Resolution — Conflicts and Conflict Resolution in the Workplace


Conflicts and Conflict Resolution in The Workplace

  • Categories: Conflict Resolution Workplace

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Published: Dec 11, 2018

Words: 1227 | Pages: 3 | 7 min read

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Introduction, works cited.

  • Booher, D. (2013). Communicate with Confidence!: How to Say It Right the First Time and Every Time. McGraw-Hill Education.
  • Khan, A., Iqbal, S., & Hussainy, S. (2016). Ownership Structure and Firm Performance: Evidence from the Corporate Governance Reform in Pakistan. International Journal of Financial Studies, 4(3), 15.
  • Sharma, V., & Mehta, N. (2017). A Study on Agency Cost Theory and Its Determinants: Evidence from India. Global Business Review, 18(2), 381-399.
  • Terason, E. R. (2018). Conflict, Agency Costs, and Optimal Ownership Structure. The Journal of Finance, 73(1), 429-462.
  • [Anonymous]. (n.d.). Conflict Management in the Workplace. Retrieved from https://www.wisconsin.edu/uw-policies/uw-system-administrative-policies/conflict-management-in-the-workplace/
  • De Dreu, C. K. W., & Gelfand, M. J. (2008). The Psychology of Conflict and Conflict Management in Organizations. Psychology Press.
  • Elnaga, A., & Imran, A. (2013). The Effect of Conflict Management on Organizational Performance: Evidence from Jordan. International Journal of Business and Management, 8(6), 57-67.
  • Folger, J. P., Poole, M. S., & Stutman, R. K. (2013). Working Through Conflict: Strategies for Relationships, Groups, and Organizations. Routledge.
  • Rahim, M. A. (2002). Toward a Theory of Managing Organizational Conflict. The International Journal of Conflict Management, 13(3), 206-235.
  • Robbins, S. P., Coulter, M., & DeCenzo, D. A. (2020). Fundamentals of Management. Pearson.

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conflict at work essay

Conflict Management Challenges in Trade Unions Essay

Introduction, works cited.

Conflict management is one of the most difficult and complex issues in the workplace. The example of a small job shop machine tool company vividly portrays that ethical dilemmas and principles are neglected by trade unions in order to sustain their image and policies. In general, the owner of the company should understand that conflict is an affliction common to all of us, however, the ways that people “struggle” with one another are quite diverse.

The best solution for the owner is to accept a certain position and examine his own ethical standards. On the one hand, it is important to present financial estimations and financial forecasts which prove his words. This step will help the owner to reduce negative feelings and misunderstanding between the trade union and the company. There is a touch of idealism revealed in our belief that appropriate control over the process of communication may lead to more equitable, humane, and satisfying forms of conflict than are often experienced. Still, the relationship between communication and conflict is not straightforward. Sometimes the ostensibly “best” forms of communication lead to the worst consequences and vice versa (Booth 43).

The next step is to communicate with workers. This step will help the owner to create a positive atmosphere and explain the situation to the workers. Policies aimed at achieving a measure of pay fairness are thus shaped in practice through a process of cooperation and conflict between the employing organization and the employees’ representatives. Both sides, though close to the scene, are guided in their dealings by their own beliefs about pay fairness rather than by well-founded factual knowledge about the employees’ pay-fairness notions (Costantino and Merchant 76).

These notions, which in principle are supposed to guide the policies aiming at a measure of pay fairness, are in practice largely hidden from their eyes. Illegitimate union activity by an employee meriting discipline might be evidence of an intent to harass the employer as distinguished from an aggressive representation of the legitimate interests of union employees. Strike-related activities such as illegal job actions or misconduct during or following settlement are wrongful activities that call for discipline or discharge (Booth 49).

Both of the steps mentioned above will help the owner to prove and keep his ethical standards and avoid tactics used by the trade union. The owner should not follow the advice of his attorney because aggressive behavior and attitude will worsen the situation. Conciliatory approach will help the owner to maintain positive atmosphere and find the best possible solution for his company and the workers. Conciliatory remarks are statements that seek reconciliation, for example, through concessions, compliments, statements empathizing with the partner’s feelings or point of view, or statements acknowledging the speaker’s own contributions to conflict (Costantino and Merchant 78).

These are essentially relationship-repair messages, which are the direct counterpart of demands, criticism, ridicule, and accusations. Conciliatory behavior by one party may lead to a softening of another person’s stance or halt an escalatory spiral, as it allows the other person to maintain or restore face. Conciliatory remarks clearly represent a more direct style of conflict than other styles considered thus far, as conciliatory behavior generally implies that the existence of a conflict has been acknowledged. Still, conciliation is primarily aimed at relationship repair. It does not necessarily lead to a direct discussion of the content issues at hand, particularly if a person concedes simply to end further consideration of the conflict.

Conciliatory behavior is the best way for the owner to avoid litigation and keep his personal principles. It can be described as a cooperative but nonassertive style of conflict, which is similar in the latter respect to conflict avoidance. Systems principles suggest that there is some point of optimal variety, where the system is not chaotically patterned (i.e., random shifting from one style to another) but there is adequate flexibility to shift styles as the situation demands. Behavioral flexibility thus characterizes the communication of more interpersonally competent individuals and couples (Costantino and Merchant 79).

Following “Monkey management” approach, the owner should take into account the fact that “ e very monkey should have an assigned next feeding time and a degree of initiative” (Monkey management, n.d.). The determination of wages is influenced by a large number of factors such as employees’ personal characteristics, firms’ economic conditions, as well as union status. It is important to control for the contribution of these factors in order to reveal a pure union/non-union wage differential. Therefore, it would be useful to recognize empirically how these factors affect the determination of wages in Japan.

The next section gives a brief introduction to literature in Japan, which will help readers to understand the subsequent analysis more easily. Second, the influence of firm size on wage differentials is negatively correlated with the movement of business cycles. When the economy is in a boom (or a recession), the wage differential due to size is smaller (or larger). In sum, the differentials are affected by business cycles. So the trade unions should decide the destiny of the workers and choose between unemployment of 35 employees because of the company’s “bankruptcy” or reduced wages for some of the employees.

The decision is influenced by other factors such as strong union movement by several leaders, closed-shops, cheap union fees, and others, Specifically, the analysis indicated a significant negative correlation between strength of situation orientation and the tendency to compromise between distribution rules (Costantino and Merchant 85).The core distinction is between a personal and an institutional approach.

The former gives empowered business owners more latitude for individual action but is less measurable against any common standard of societal expectations. The latter risks inhibiting innovation and adaptability in individualized situations but permits broader management involvement and greater external observation and evaluation of performance. The case shows that tradition of business ethics is not uniquely distinguishable in standards or implementation procedures from the personal ethics of individuals where the scope for action stems largely from the level of personal wealth.

Business ethics is judged differently, almost independently from the actions of individual executives, with standards and implementation procedures determined by an impersonal institution. Great care must be exercised in all of these areas. Expenses for implementation and control cannot get out of hand, and policing and enforcement cannot be done in a way that adversely affects the attitudes or the creativity of the employees.

Complying or not complying with a law is fairly straightforward; however, great care must be exercised in assessing and evaluating the correctness or incorrectness of moral and ethical codes and philanthropic giving. Extensive value judgments and the personal desires of top management enter into these decisions. “By setting specific times for addressing the problem, managers empower employees to make interim decisions about the problem, and still report back” (Monkey management n.d.).

In sum, the owner of the company should follow his personal values and moral principles and choose the best possible way for his company and employees. Conciliatory behavior will help to reduce aggression and negative feelings towards the owner and support conflict resolution. As the most important, the owner should communicate with workers and explain the situation. If wages are not reduced, the company will fail and all employees will loose their jobs. Effective communication strategy and ethical standards allow the company to avoid conflict development and maintain positive relationships with all parties involved.

  • Booth, A. K. The Economics of the Trade Union. Cambridge University Press, 1995.
  • Costantino, C., Merchant, Ch. S. Designing Conflict Management Systems: A Guide to Creating Productive and Healthy Organizations. Jossey-Bass; 1 edition, 1995.
  • Monkey Management . n.d.. Web.
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IvyPanda. (2021, October 17). Conflict Management Challenges in Trade Unions. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-to-managing-conflict-at-the-workplace/

"Conflict Management Challenges in Trade Unions." IvyPanda , 17 Oct. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/how-to-managing-conflict-at-the-workplace/.

IvyPanda . (2021) 'Conflict Management Challenges in Trade Unions'. 17 October.

IvyPanda . 2021. "Conflict Management Challenges in Trade Unions." October 17, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-to-managing-conflict-at-the-workplace/.

1. IvyPanda . "Conflict Management Challenges in Trade Unions." October 17, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-to-managing-conflict-at-the-workplace/.


IvyPanda . "Conflict Management Challenges in Trade Unions." October 17, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/how-to-managing-conflict-at-the-workplace/.


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How to Handle Four Common Types of Team Conflict

Conflict on a team is inevitable, and it can manifest in four distinct ways. Here’s what each type of conflict looks like and how to resolve it. Individual-level conflict is when one team member is difficult, disengaged, loves playing devil’s advocate, or generally causes tension on the team. If your team experiences this kind of conflict, […]

Conflict on a team is inevitable, and it can manifest in four distinct ways. Here’s what each type of conflict looks like and how to resolve it.

Source: This tip is adapted from “4 Common Types of Team Conflict—and How to Resolve Them,” by Randall S. Peterson et al.

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  23. How to Handle Four Common Types of Team Conflict

    Here's what each type of conflict looks like and how to resolve it. Source: This tip is adapted from "4 Common Types of Team Conflict—and How to Resolve Them," by Randall S. Peterson et al.

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