Simple Yet Effective Ways to Resolve Conflict at the Workplace

As a manager, you will come across many employees who clash with one another so seriously that it impacts productivity. As the manager, you need to intervene to ensure that you continue to get the best out of your employees.

Bloomberg found that over half of South African employees are skipping their annual leave due to the high demands of work and that stress and burnout are escalating furiously.

So, what can South Africans do to take back their lives and win this war against stress?

Learn to outsmart it. Here’s how: 

“Worry is a misuse of the imagination.” (Dan Zadra)

Here Are a Few Tips That Will Help You When You Face Such Situations:

  • Call Each Employee and Find out Their Side of the Story

Very often the problem is not as big as it seems. When you call each employee, you might stumble upon a different perspective, a misunderstanding, or a misquote that triggered the whole thing. In such a case, a face-to-face discussion in your presence after you learned the facts can clear the air and get things on track again.

  • Ensure that it is Not Harassment

Sometimes the conflict is owed to sexual or other types of harassment. If you feel that the conflict is due to any type of harassment, contact your company’s lawyer immediately.Also issue a written warning to the employee that is perceived to be harassing any other on the basis of gender, ethnicity, personal preferences, etc. Your employees should feel safe in the knowledge that you on behalf of the company would not tolerate such behavior.

  • Involve the Team

Get your team to work together in resolving the conflict. In most cases two  warring employees would not like the attention of the whole team on them, especially when the  team starts keeping the score on who is the first offender. Hence, they will take extra trouble to be nice to the other co-worker/co-workers. This is a very effective method when the team is small and close-knit.

  • Change the Employee’s Team

If possible, move one or both employees who you feel are creating conflict to another team. If not possible, get another person on the team who would dilute the interaction between the conflicting employees. Continue to counsel the employees until the conflict is resolved.

  • Teach the Employees to Look at Things Objectively

This takes time, but it is important that everyone under your leadership should know that conflict harms the company. Hence, every employee should strive to do their best to keep conflict to a minimum. When conflict does arise, keep it objective. Instead of blaming one another, focus on what can be done to remove the friction.

Team Not Playing Nice? How to Deal With the Conflict

Most people’s first instinct is to avoid conflict at work. Which makes sense – Who wants to say something that could potentially send them packing? 

But have you considered that by pretending as if you didn’t see anything you could be putting your team and possibly the company in jeopardy?

So what’s the managerial thing to do in cases such as the above? 

  • Prevention Is Better than Cure. Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. Whether you keep an eye out for it (good idea) or try to avoid it (bad idea), it will find you. However, putting practices in place to help minimize conflict triggers, will serve you and your company well. 
  • When making new appointments, ensure that the new employee is a great fit to the team. If the older team members will be working closely with the new employee, it will be a wise idea to involve them in the selection process. 
  • Opening lines for clear, regular communication is of utmost importance. Not only is it key to building strong relationships, but as a manager your employees need to know that your door is always open for them to voice their concerns. 
  • Distribute work hours and work evenly. Don’t allow certain employees to do less work than others – it will only spark a quarrel. Keeping your employees equally busy at all times will also make less time for gossip and disputes. 
  • Invest in training to teach your employees the necessary conflict-resolution skills, and make sure they put them to practice when opportunities arise. 
  • Have grievance policy and procedure strategies set up. In this way should any volatile situations arise, they can still be passed up to management who will be able to stay on top of it all.
  • Ensure clear guidelines for dealing with potential conflicts are established. Each time a new employee joins the team, make a point of communicating these guidelines. 
  • Establish common goals that focus on tasks and not your employees’ personalities. Ensure that each employee contributes towards meeting the shared goals. When targets are reached, reward your employees.

Conflict resolution

Sometimes the damage is already done and it’s too late to take preventative measures. While conflict can certainly shred your team into pieces, you as the manager can still come up with creative solutions to resolve the problem.

The Secret Lies in Constructive Conflict Management: 

  • Step 1: Identify the problem

Find out what the source of the problem is and what stage the conflict is in. Essentially your purpose is to get involved as much as possible. 

  • Step 2: Give each side a chance to speak

Arrange one meeting with the necessary parties and ensure that all differences, complaints and negative feelings are aired. 

  • Step 3: Work through the differences

Your aim here will be to bring about greater understanding of the parties’ different attitudes, perceptions and positions. Encourage both parties to highlight their points of view and try to get each party to understand the other’s point of view. 

  • Step 4: Identify solutions

For each issue find a solution. To get the best results, involve both parties in playing an active role in identifying solutions for each issue.

  •  Step 5: Reach a compromise

Create a win-win situation in which each party obtains their goals through creative integration of their concerns. Create an agreement, preferably on paper, where both parties acknowledge the issues and agree to move on.

  •  Step 6: Keep communication channels open

Make sure that your employees meet regularly to talk about any awkward situations that could be potential triggers to future conflicts.

  •  Step 7: Follow-up

Give yourself about 3 months from the first meeting to check if everything is still in order. Check if the issues have been resolved and whether further mediation is needed.

Could You Be the Reason People Leave Your Company?

Rarely does someone leave a job because of the expense report policy, the location of his or her workstation or the wall colour. Most people quit a job because they can no longer tolerate their boss or they have lost faith in senior management. This is can be especially true in a fledgling company where the actions of a manager or leader are magnified. Conversely, people will stay at a company or in a job during thick and thin if they respect and believe in their boss.

Most people quit a job because they can no longer tolerate their boss.CLICK TO TWEET

Why do people gravitate to certain managers or leaders? What do they possess that others don’t? Intellect. Drive. Esprit de corps. Humility. Humanity. These are personified in the five laws of attraction for leaders. They are surprisingly simple and baseline essentials for all managers and leaders. Exemplifying them will make you beloved and more important and never the reason someone leaves your company.

Having a vision for success

Whether you are the CEO or a mid-level manager, have a vision for what you want your team to achieve. It needs to be clear, concise, easy to understand and easy to act upon. It needs to convey optimism, enthusiasm and aspiration. This is personified by what you communicate (verbally and in writing) and your daily actions. People want to understand what they are working toward and how to measure success. They will work hard if they know you have a game plan.

Being decisive

This is the ability to make decisions on time and the extent to which you are comfortable moving forward in uncertainty. Rarely in today’s complex business environment will you have all the facts and data you desire to make decisions with assurance, yet you are regularly need to make such decisions order to keep the ball moving forward. Therefore, it’s essential to trust your colleagues, ask key questions, weigh the applicable facts and trust your instincts.

It’s essential to trust your colleagues.CLICK TO TWEET

Building a cohesive and high functioning team

A high functioning team collaborates, forges camaraderie, fosters career development and deals directly with conflict. Building and nurturing a high-performing team takes time and energy. However, a strong team of talented, respected individuals will achieve significant results and simplify the decision-making process by working in a unified manner.

Being self-aware

This has both an internal and external component. The internal component is the degree to which you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses. You are not perfect nor do you need to be. Accepting this reality will make it easier to admit what you don’t know. This will allow others to step forward and add value to their area of expertise. They will appreciate you for the responsibility and recognition. The external component is how you interact with others. Selflessly treating your colleagues with integrity and respect will create a devoted fan base.


Being a good listener means you are skilled at being able to convey what you have heard, such that the other person feels understood. It’s critical to listen to everyone, not just the loudest voice or your most trusted lieutenants. Sometimes, it’s the quiet ones who have the most to say, even if it represents an opposing view.

Now is the perfect time to put these into practice. Over time they will become second nature, your team will strengthen and positive results will follow.

By Peter Diamond

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