Skip to main content
employees arguing in meeting

How to Handle Conflicts in the Workplace

Workplace conflict is a funny thing. On one hand, nobody wants this conflict to happen. On the other hand, workplace conflict happens across the world each and every day!

Therefore, it’s important to know how to handle conflict when it happens. Even managers often struggle with how to handle conflict. After all, when your job as a leader is to get everyone to work as a team, you might not know what to do when team members are fighting one another.

That’s where we come in. Keep reading to learn our top tips for resolving conflicts in the workplace!

Open Door Communication Can Resolve Conflict

Ever hear the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? That phrase definitely applies to handling workplace conflict!

When you hire new employees, it’s important to let them know your door is always open. Workers should feel safe and comfortable coming to you if they have any questions or concerns.

With this policy in place, employees will know to come to you when there is a problem brewing. You may be able to help solve it before it turns into workplace conflict with a long, bitter, and ugly fight between employees.

Let Employees Work It Out When Possible

Not every workplace conflict rises to the level where a manager must deal with it. In some cases, your intervention may actually make things worse!

For example, imagine that you hear employees arguing about something like sports or politics. If you let the matter be, those employees may find some common ground. Alternatively, they may just “agree to disagree.”

But if you step in to try to “solve” a problem that isn’t that serious, it can actually make employees dig in and double down on their argument. Rather than heading a major problem off, you may have accidentally helped create one!

Isolate the Cause

How do you know when to step in and when to let employees work a conflict out? Figuring out what they are arguing about is a good place to start. In some cases, the subject matter may require immediate intervention.

For example, employees often tease each other. If one or more employees start bullying someone else, you will need to step in. You also need to step in immediately if someone is using language that is aggressive, threatening, or explicit. Management must always intervene when there is even a possibility of harassment or discrimination.

If things aren’t this clear-cut, when do you need to get involved? Think of it this way: Any conflict that is hurting team morale or hurting team productivity is a conflict that must be resolved immediately.

Safe and Private Communications

When two employees are having a workplace conflict, where they work it out is almost as important as how they work it out. That’s why you should not only serve as a mediator, but you should also find your employees a safe and private place where you can all talk together.

The reason you need a safe, isolated space is twofold. First, it’s possible that some (or even most) of the conflict came from one or even both employees wanting to impress other workers. By removing the “audience,” you can speak candidly to each one about the problem.

That’s the second reason you need a private space: You may need to speak very frankly to each worker about this conflict and its possible ramifications for their future at the company. Regardless of who “started it,” you should always give your employees privacy and dignity during these mediation sessions.

boss having private meeting with employee

Hear Everyone Out

When you mediate an employee conflict, it should never be a “sit and get” meeting where they must sit quietly and listen to you talk. Instead, the opposite should happen: You need to let everyone say what they have to say, take time to ask questions, and, if needed, present special rules (like not talking over someone else).

This simple approach lets each employee speak openly about what they see as the cause of the conflict. In some cases, employees may have very different ideas about why they are arguing. Simply letting everyone have time and space to speak may be enough to work the issue out, especially if part of the problem is that they haven’t been feeling heard and recognized.

If there is no easy resolution, though, then you’ll need to consider what each worker said as you conduct your own investigation.

Conduct Your Own Investigation

If you have to investigate the employee conflict on your own, you should go in with an open mind. Instead of assuming one party is in the wrong, follow up on the information you already have by interviewing other employees. If the law provides the ability to do so, you should also review things like security footage (which can help verify the details of things like physical conflicts) and employee emails (which may help you verify claims of inappropriate, threatening, or discriminatory language). Regardless of how you investigate, be sure to document everything!

Your investigation may also help you turn up any underlying issues. For example, maybe one employee has been acting irrationally because they are dealing with a sick relative or with financial issues. Knowing more about the potential causes of the problem can help you find the best solution.

Find a Solution (And Plan Your Next Steps)

Ultimately, the best solution is one that helps the conflicting employees find common ground. Therefore, you should strive to develop a solution that each party will accept. This may involve moving one worker to a different team, for example, so that the two employees in question don’t have to regularly work alongside each other.

You should also determine what each employee needs to do to help resolve things. This may include apologizing to one another. Depending on who did what, this may also include completing things like anger management courses.

Every workplace conflict is different. There is no “one size fits all” solution, and you must work hard to find a solution that everyone can live with to finally create a winning workplace culture.

Embrace a Better Workplace

Now you know how to handle conflicts in the workplace. But do you know where to find an employer who will truly value your conflict resolution skills?

Here at Seguros Confie, we are always looking for motivated managers and sales professionals who want to take the next step in their careers. To learn more about how we can help further your career, contact us today!