Effective Management

Mastering Conflict Resolution: A Manager's Roadmap to a Harmonious Workplace

Effective Management
March 7, 2024
5 min read


Conflict in the workplace isn't just inevitable; it's a pivotal aspect of organizational dynamics that, when navigated skillfully, can lead to greater innovation, trust, and collaboration among teams. However, the difference between constructive and destructive conflict hinges on how managers approach and resolve these disputes.

Key facts

  • Only 8% of employees report no conflict within their workplace (source). 
  • Conflict most commonly arises from poor communication, unclear roles, heavy workloads, and personality clashes (source). 
  • On average, managers dedicate over 4 hours each week to resolving conflicts (source). 
  • An impressive 98% of employees consider conflict handling an extremely or very important leadership skill (source).
  • Nearly 1 in 4 employees perceive their managers' ability to resolve conflict as poor or very poor, highlighting the importance of developing these skills (source).
  • Toxic workplace behavior, a typical result of unresolved conflict, is the biggest predictor of negative work outcomes, including but not limited to, symptoms of burnout, anxiety, or intent to leave (source). 

Actionable Strategies

Below are four actionable strategies every manager can implement to turn potential discord into opportunities for growth or, in some cases, even mitigate the risk of conflict before it arises.

1. Listen to understand

The foundation of healthy conflict management is active listening. It is critical for managers to ask questions, and listen to the responses, without letting baseline assumptions impede your ability to understand the situation. Starting with a clear view into the facts, opinions, and views of everyone involved sets forward the path to resolution. We are hardwired to seek meaning in events and will innately fill in the blanks when pieces feel missing. It is important to both be transparent and encourage transparency from others.

Reflect: Can you think of an example in your life in which you were frustrated because you didn’t feel that your underlying views and experiences were validated when in conflict with someone else? What was the end result?

Take Action: When you sense conflict arising, create a safe space for the people involved to share their experiences and views. Focus on understanding what actually happened, how it made them feel, and what they need (see NVC for more on this approach). Ask open-ended questions to get to the underlying causes of the conflict. Depending on the context, this approach may be more well received if initially applied on an individual basis.

Plan Ahead: Although it can be challenging, remember that proactively dealing with conflict can make life much easier for everyone in the long run. The simple act of listening to understand can go a long way. 

2. Separate the people from the problem

Conflict arises from differing views and subjective experiences. One of the biggest risks to effective conflict management is unmanaged personal judgements. By separating the problem from the person, real issues can be debated without damaging relationships. Doing this well requires the use of specific examples.

Reflect: Think about times in your own experience when conflict spiraled out of control due to people becoming entrenched in a fixed position. All too often we associate our viewpoints with our identity making them harder to let go of or see another perspective. 

Take Action: When discussing the issue, help your team express their underlying interests, needs, and concerns rather than entrenching in their surface level positions. As part of this process, help the parties involved to see the conflict from the other's perspective and to identify shared interests or goals. Humans are natural problem solvers and quick to jump into solution mode. Make sure the problem is clearly articulated from all sides before moving in that direction. 

Plan Ahead: It is important to agree on the actual problems before moving into solution mode. When we are able to see the problems from each other's perspectives, while aligning on shared interests and goals, we can see the problem with more objectivity. 

3. Generate solutions together

Once the problem is separated from the people and common ground has been found, it is time to focus collectively on next steps. Different types of conflict may require different types of solutions. Use your best judgment when it comes to ensuring an appropriate solution is found. In general, when you enable decisions to be made jointly, you are reinforcing transparency, curiosity, and accountability within the path forward. 

Reflect: How much better does it feel to know you’re taking action on a problem, as opposed to thinking about how much something bothers you? The simple act of creating shared awareness and understanding of a problem can go a long way. Turning that into action and building positive momentum can quickly build trust. 

Take Action: Once you have recognized and validated the feelings of all parties involved, and established mutual common ground, facilitate a brainstorming session where all parties contribute ideas for resolving the conflict. Focus on aligned, objective outcomes and actions that can be applied to improve the situation based on the interests stated in the problem identification step. The situation does not need to be solved in its entirety, but it is crucial to start making progress, and jointly aligning on next steps is an efficient way to start.

Plan Ahead: Once you have aligned on a starting solution, make sure to schedule a follow-up meeting to assess the effectiveness of the resolution strategies. As a manager, it is important to show that you genuinely care in these situations, both for the problem at hand and the people involved. 

4. Communicate more regularly and more clearly

In addition to practicing the skills to manage conflict, it is important to create an environment that reduces conflict in the first place. Communication, transparency, and clarity are key to mitigating conflict in the workplace. When asked, what are the main causes of conflict in your workplace? The two most common responses are poor communication (47%) and lack of role clarity (42%) (source). 

Reflect: Take a moment to assess yourself on the following aspects of communication: 

  1. [Role Clarity:] My team has clearly defined role responsibilities and expectations. 
  2. [Transparency:] I actively relay relevant company and team information on a regular basis. 
  3. [Ongoing Communication:] I make space for the people on my team to ask questions, share opinions, and express concerns every week. 

Take Action: Based on your self assessment on role clarity, transparency, and ongoing communication, choose one area where you think you can improve. Decide on one simple step you can take to move that dimension of communication forward and commit to doing it in the next week. 

Plan Ahead: As managers and leaders, we often underestimate the importance of regular communication, clarity, and transparency. These are all important factors in employee engagement, satisfaction, and productivity. When in doubt, communicate more. 


As a manager, your approach to conflict resolution significantly impacts your team's morale, productivity, and overall satisfaction. By employing these strategies—actively listening, separating people from problems, jointly creating solutions, and communicating effectively—you can transform challenges into opportunities for growth and development. Remember, the goal is not merely to avoid conflict, but to manage it in a way that strengthens your team and enhances your leadership.

Sign up for product updates and culture insights.

Product updates
Culture tips
Research findings
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.