- View programs
- Take our program quiz
- Online BBA Degree Program
- ↳ Specialization in Artificial Intelligence
- ↳ Specialization in Business Analytics
- ↳ Specialization in Digital Marketing
- ↳ Specialization in Digital Transformation
- ↳ Specialization in Entrepreneurship
- ↳ Specialization in International Business
- ↳ Specialization in Product Management
- ↳ Specialization in Supply Chain Management
- Online BBA Top-Up Program
- Associate of Applied Science in Business (AAS)
- Online MSc in Business Analytics
- Online MSc in Digital Transformation
- Online MBA Degree Program
- ↳ Specialization in Cybersecurity
- ↳ Specialization in E-Commerce
- ↳ Specialization in Fintech & Blockchain
- ↳ Specialization in Sustainability
- Intermediate certificates
- Advanced certificates
- Intermediate courses
- Advanced courses
- ↳ Data Analytics
- ↳ Data Science
- ↳ Software Development
- Transfer credits
- For organizations
- Career Coalition
- Our faculty
- Career services
- Academic model
- Learner stories
- The Global Grid
- Chat with Nexford learners
- Book consultation
- Careers - we're hiring!
10 Leadership Conflict Management & Resolution Skills 2023
Being a leader in any organization is no easy task. Not only are leaders responsible for their actions, and the ramifications thereof, they are also responsible for the behavior and actions of their team members.
Running a team like a well-oiled machine is no easy task, as more often than not it doesn't run as well as a leader may like. There will be times that there will be conflict in the workplace, which could, if left unchecked, threaten to derail the productivity and profitability of the organization, and the morale of the team. This is where leadership conflict management and resolution skills for team leaders come to the fore.
They are qualities that set a good and a great leader apart. Success requires teamwork and clear communication. When leading a team, one of your primary responsibilities is making sure your team works well together and when it doesn't, you're able to resolve the conflict.
Often, individuals with varying personalities comprise these teams. The ability to recognize potential conflicts between individual team members and develop conflict resolution strategies to resolve them quickly is essential for projects to proceed successfully.
Leaders recognize that understanding conflict management can help them resolve issues before they occur or resolve existing conflicts in such a way that your team can still work together as a cohesive unit.
10 Leadership Conflict Management & Resolution Skills
1. communicate early and often .
To reduce misunderstandings and ambiguity, communicate your intentions and desires to not just one party, but rather every employee and as such all parties involved in the work environment. Ask what your colleagues need to work their best, and do your part to meet their needs or – at a minimum – avoid doing that which you know will cause harm. If you suspect conflict amongst team members, a leader must nip it in the bud quickly as problems will not just disappear, but rather linger if not. Failing to act as a leader when you spot a potential problem can create problems down the line.
2. Listen actively
Active listening is a proven leadership skill for conflict resolution, and involves developing a skill for listening to what is verbally and nonverbally communicated. Often, conflicts arise because two parties misunderstand or mishear what the other person is saying. Leaders know how to manage conflict and understand that active listening helps ensure that the sender and receiver understand one another and can more easily move towards a resolution. This is half the battle when it comes to being a mediator in resolving conflicts.
3. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to perceive, manage, and control emotions not just in oneself, but also in others. Understanding, expressing, and effectively handling emotions are vital for conflict resolution. EI skills help improve communication and relationships and therefore is included in the vital skills for conflict resolution.
4. Problem solving
Problem-solving skills help leaders or parties in conflict recognize and address the root causes of conflicts by identifying the issues and exploring possible solutions. Leaders can apply the 5 problem-solving steps or 5 conflict management styles for conflict resolution: identify the problem, list possible solutions, evaluate the solutions, choose one solution, and implement it. People can find creative and equitable solutions to their conflicts by applying problem-solving skills.
Negotiation is trying to reach an agreement between two or more parties. It can be used to resolve disputes and every conflict and is integral to conflict resolution. Negotiation skills can be learned and practiced, and one can apply them in various situations. Therefore, it is vital to have effective negotiation skills to help achieve successful outcomes in any case. Negotiation is one of the powerful skills for conflict resolution, and it can help bring parties together to work toward a common goal.
Are you ready to take your career to the next level?
Nexford's Career Path Planner takes into account your experience and interests to provide you with a customized roadmap to success.
Receive personalized advice on the skills and qualifications you need to get ahead in areas like finance, marketing, management and entrepreneurship.
Observation is the key to effective conflict management. When a leader observes a conflict, one can understand it better and find solutions that work for both parties. You must also be able to keep track of your emotions and reactions to remain impartial. The skills required to be a practical observer will vary depending on the type of conflict you are dealing with.
Self-awareness helps you understand your thoughts, feelings, and behavior, enabling you to identify the underlying causes of conflicts. Once you thoroughly understand the source of conflict, you can begin resolving it using other conflict management skills and techniques. This vital skill also helps you in identifying any biases you might have as a manager.
8. Team awareness
A conflict resolution team is especially important for effective conflict resolution, and must have the skills to work together effectively. One of the skills that are essential for conflict resolution is team awareness. This skill helps managers understand their team dynamics and how they interact with each other. In addition, it can help resolve conflict before it escalates into a severe issue. Conflict occurs through any disagreement and can cause rifts, so team awareness helps a manager to make their teams work through their differences and reach a consensus on a solution.
Conflict can mean different things to different people, but what is universal is that resolving conflict is a challenging but essential part of any relationship. It can be frustrating when an argument escalates quickly to the point of no return. But patience is critical to resolving conflict successfully. Effective leadership means that the best leaders need to take their time and not rush into a decision. When one is trying to resolve a conflict, it helps to circle back and understand the other person’s point of view to effectively manage things and develop a solution that works for both parties. By listening carefully and taking time to think about the situation, you can diffuse tense situations and build trust between you and the other person. All in all, patience can be one of the key skills for conflict resolution.
It is often difficult to stay impartial when you manage conflict, but in any conflict, a good manager should never take sides. Being impartial means that you can listen to both sides of the story and act accordingly. A problem at hand can't be resolved unless the historical issues are addressed. In this type of situation, it's best to separate the conflict from the people that are involved with it. Effective leaders understand that they shouldn't focus on people and their personal characteristics, instead, they should look at the problem and center their energy on finding a solution.
Looking To Further Develop Your Leadership Skills?
Leadership skills are extremely important to excel in a career. However, other soft and hard skills are also needed.
Discover how you can acquire the most in-demand skills with our free report, and open the doors to a successful career. Download the free report today!
Why not also check out our leadership and organization development course , which will give you skills need to be confident in leadership within an organization!
Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Being a true leader is no easy task, and nor too is managing interpersonal or interdepartmental conflict within an organization. When it comes to conflict, being cool, calm, collected, impartial and able to see the wood for the trees, are skills every leader/manager worth their salt must posses or face the consequences of lost productivity and other knock-on effects that may also affect the profitability of the company. Many leaders know that their role in solving workplace conflict is to help employees involved in the conflict to clarify their needs and guide them to a fair solution that both sides will accept. All conflict situations can lead to division, so as part of the conflict resolution, be sure to address all types of different conflict right away; however, don't rush when it comes to working out a resolution.
Whilst many say that leaders are born and not made, what is apparent is that modern leaders can be coached at a university like Nexford , that offers BBA and MBA programs, on how to spot conflict early and develop ways of managing conflict in the workplace before things spiral out of control. Nexford's Leadership Management and Teams course focuses on how to create a personal and shared vision and communicate effectively with teams, as a leader, a manager and a team member. On the course learners will develop a personal philosophy of leadership, management and membership in the global workplace through a personal inventory and assessment, as well as apply conflict management skills to a personal and organizational setting. Complimenting that, Nexford's Leadership and Organizational Development course examines individual and group interaction and helps learners gain a deeper understanding of how human behavior drives organizational behavior and development. On the course learners will apply various leadership styles, conflict management strategies, and change models to organizational situations to resolve conflict at hand.
Discover how you can acquire the most in-demand skills that can help with managing conflict within the workplace with our free report. Download the free report today!
What is conflict management?
Conflict management is an umbrella term for the way we identify and handle conflicts fairly and efficiently and is necessary for managing diverse teams. The goal is to minimize the potential negative impacts that are involved in a conflict and can arise from disagreements and increase the odds of a positive outcome.
What is a conflict management strategy?
Strategies for managing conflict are the ways a manager can engage with their employees productively when it seems like there is a risk of conflicts and arguments emerging. People naturally deal with conflicts in different ways, but some can be better than others when it comes to keeping everyone involved in the situation happy and productive. By combining your own natural conflict management style with any of the styles below, you can develop a range of responses to arguments and clashes in the workplace.
What types of conflict can occur in the workplace?
As no two days are ever the same, so too are the types of conflict that may occur in the office environment. Knowing how to spot them, and stop them early can help to resolve a conflict in double quick time. Experts maintain that there are 5 conflict types that occur in the workplace and they are leadership conflicts, work style conflicts, creative conflicts, personality conflicts, and task-based conflicts.
Learn how to develop the most in-demand skills for your future career!
Discover how you can acquire the most in-demand skills with our free report, and open the doors to a successful career.
Why is it crucial for a leader/employer to have conflict management skills?
Understanding conflict allows leaders to manage it more effectively and can provide a path to accomplishing positive outcomes. Conflict can lead to division, so every leader needs to understand that conflict management training can be an active force that will allow leaders grow healthy relationships within their organizations which can ultimately result in effective team work and productivity and make it easier to manage workplace disputes.
What does it take for a leader to resolve disputes in the workplace?
Depending on the situation, there are many skills and strategies leaders must look at for managing conflict and resolve disputes in the workplace. Leading from the front is just one and taking control of a situation before a molehill turns into a mountain. But if you had to put your finger on it, what exactly does it take for a leader to increase their resolution efforts and resolve disputes in the workplace? Experts would maintain that as a leader, even though you can initiate a constructive conversation, the effort always involves dialogue and discussion among the people involved. Conflict is inevitable, but by adopting a positive attitude toward the conflict, leaders find the best in people and in the situation, and maintain their sense of humor. Sounds easy enough, but more often than that it isn't necessarily so.
Looking to potentially take your career even further? Consider how an Online BBA or Online MBA can help you develop these skills and increase your earning potential.
Mark is a college graduate with Honours in Copywriting. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Nexford, creating engaging, thought-provoking, and action-oriented content.
Join our newsletter and be the first to receive news about our programs, events and articles.
- Business Essentials
- Leadership & Management
- Credential of Leadership, Impact, and Management in Business (CLIMB)
- Entrepreneurship & Innovation
- *New* Marketing
- Finance & Accounting
- Business in Society
- For Organizations
- Support Portal
- Media Coverage
- Founding Donors
- Leadership Team
- Harvard Business School →
- HBS Online →
- Business Insights →
Harvard Business School Online's Business Insights Blog provides the career insights you need to achieve your goals and gain confidence in your business skills.
- Career Development
- Earning Your MBA
- News & Events
- Staff Spotlight
- Student Profiles
- Work-Life Balance
- Alternative Investments
- Business Analytics
- Business Strategy
- Design Thinking and Innovation
- Digital Marketing Strategy
- Disruptive Strategy
- Economics for Managers
- Entrepreneurship Essentials
- Financial Accounting
- Global Business
- Launching Tech Ventures
- Leadership Principles
- Leadership, Ethics, and Corporate Accountability
- Leading with Finance
- Management Essentials
- Negotiation Mastery
- Organizational Leadership
- Power and Influence for Positive Impact
- Strategy Execution
- Sustainable Business Strategy
- Sustainable Investing
5 Strategies for Conflict Resolution in the Workplace
- 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.
Access your free e-book today.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
About the Author
- Search Search Please fill out this field.
- Career Planning
- Skills Development
Conflict Management: Definition, Skills, and Examples
Alison Doyle is one of the nation’s foremost career experts.
What is Conflict Management?
What are conflict management skills.
- Why Conflict Management Is Important
Types of Conflict Management Skills
More conflict management skills.
What are conflict management skills, and how can they help you at work? Strong conflict management skills are an advantage in most positions, as conflict is virtually impossible to avoid. It is human nature to disagree, and disagreements are healthy when approached correctly.
Eliminating conflict entirely would cause its own problems: there would be no diversity of opinion, and no way for us to catch and correct flawed plans and policies.
Conflict management, also known as conflict resolution, involves having a workplace that precludes conflict and a management team that successfully handles and resolves workplace issues.
The aim for professionals in the workplace should not be to avoid conflict, but to resolve it in an effective manner. Employees with strong conflict resolution skills are able to effectively handle workplace issues.
Individuals who handle conflict in a respectful, optimistic way create the chance for growth and learning within an organization.
Communicating clearly, empathetically, and patiently leads to favorable outcomes and keeps professional relationships strong.
Why Employers Value Conflict Management Skills
Poor communication or interpersonal tension can easily cause simple disagreements to flare up into resentment or worse.
Conflicts that are allowed to fester and grow will ultimately diminish productivity and damage staff morale. This is why employers seek employees with the skills to manage and diffuse conflict.
Much unnecessary conflict can be avoided simply with clear, accurate written and verbal communication ; a single lost email could lead to failed plans and fingers pointed.
Assumptions about what other people already know, think, or intend can cause resentment or worse. Some people argue just because they want to feel heard.
Simply being a good listener can be enough to inspire trust and resolve hurt feelings.
Examples of good communication skills include:
- Quickly Addressing Problems
- Understanding Reluctant Participants
- Formalizing Agreements
- Active Listening
- Meeting with Parties
- Modeling Reasonable Dialogue
- Nonverbal Communication
- Open Dialogue
- Suppressing Conflict-Provoking Behaviors
- Teaching Positive Behaviors
- Written Communication
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand your own feelings and those of others, and to handle those feelings well. People who have high emotional intelligence are good at identifying and meeting the needs of others while taking responsibility for their own needs and feelings.
A few ways they do this are:
- Being Adaptable
- Being Analytical
- Asserting Feelings
- Showing Curiosity
- Forgiving Transgressions
- Helping Others
- Identifying Triggers
- Recognizing Improvements
- Setting Ground Rules
- Showing Respect
- Modifying Behavior
- Being Motivated
- Being Optimistic
- Being Self-Aware
- Displaying Self-Regulation
Empathy means feeling what others feel. The ability to see a situation from someone else’s viewpoint, and to understand their needs, motivations, and possible misunderstandings, is critical to effective conflict management.
Some people are naturally more empathetic than others, but empathy can be developed.
At its most useful, empathy is augmented by an intellectual understanding of another’s situation, since emotional empathy alone can sometimes create complicated scenarios. Empathy is best applied in a work environment when paired with critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and other types of discernment.
Hallmarks of empathy include:
- Asking for Feedback
- Building Trust
- Showing Compassion
- Embracing Diversity and Inclusion
- Giving Constructive Feedback
- Handling Difficult People
- Managing Emotions
- High Emotional Intelligence
- Identifying Nonverbal Cues
- Recognizing Differences
- Understanding Different Viewpoints
- Good Interpersonal Skills
- Ability to Recognize Problems
- Good Self-Control
- Ability to Embrace Different Opinions
Creative Problem Solving
Understanding and communication are all very well and good, but do not help much if you don’t have a solution for the underlying problem, whatever that problem may be.
Conflict often happens because no one can come up with a workable solution, so resolving the conflict depends on creating a solution.
That makes problem-solving an in-demand skill for employers. Examples of problem-solving conflicts in the workplace include:
- Conflict Analysis
- Brainstorming Solutions
- Verbal Communication
- Convening Meetings
- Decision Making
- Designating Sanctions
- Problem Solving
- Sense of Humor
- Goal Integration
- Monitoring Compliance
- Reconfiguring Relationships
- Fair Resolution
Here are additional conflict management skills for resumes, cover letters, job applications, and interviews. Required skills will vary based on the job to which you're applying, so also review our list of skills listed by job and type of skill .
- Avoiding Punishing
- Being Present
- Ability to "Let It Go"
- Ability to Prioritize Relationships
- Respecting Differences
- Separating Yourself
- Stress Management
- Ability to Take Criticism
How to Make Your Skills Stand Out
ADD SKILLS TO YOUR RESUME: Include the terms most closely related to the job in your resume, especially in the description of your work history.
HIGHLIGHT SKILLS IN YOUR COVER LETTER: You can incorporate your most relevant terms into your cover letter .
DISCUSS YOUR SKILLS AT JOB INTERVIEWS: Keep the top skills listed here in mind during your interview, and be prepared to give examples of how you've used each.
SHRM. " Managing Workplace Conflict ." Accessed Aug. 25, 2020.
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.
- Online Degree Explore Bachelor’s & Master’s degrees
- MasterTrack™ Earn credit towards a Master’s degree
- University Certificates Advance your career with graduate-level learning
- Top Courses
- Join for Free
10 Essential Managerial Skills and How to Develop Them
Discover the skills you need to be effective in a manager position and get tips for developing your managerial skills.
Effective management requires various key skills, from good communication and conflict management to strategic thinking. Knowing what managerial skills you need and how to develop them can help you become a better manager. This guide identifies ten essential skills managers need, clearly explaining what management is, why good management matters, and how you can benefit from being a manager.
What is management?
In business, management refers to supervising employees and overseeing day-to-day operations to meet an organization's goals and objectives. Managers need to have a deep knowledge of their particular industry, which means having some level of business expertise.
How does good management benefit a company?
Good management helps ensure an organization's success in several ways. These include:
Planning: Good managers plan strategies to achieve company goals.
Organization: Good managers know about company resources and how to allocate them.
Direction: Good managers know how to direct and motivate employees.
Control: Good managers ensure employees execute tasks and make changes when needed.
Read more: 8 Management Styles in Business: Choosing the Best Fit
What are some benefits of being a manager?
No matter what industry you choose, being a manager has certain benefits. Typically, managers get to enjoy the following benefits:
Get to be involved in making important decisions at work
Enjoy some control over what work they do and when and how they work on it
Spend a good deal of time in collaboration with other people and working with teams
Enjoy opportunities for job-related learning and development
Have many options for career advancement within or outside of the workplace
Receive a good salary and benefits
10 skills every manager should have
Managing companies and employees effectively takes a specific skill set. To build your managerial expertise, consider attaining these skills:
1. Ability to delegate
As a manager, the ability to delegate can offer you a variety of benefits. First, sharing tasks with others saves you time at work and reduces your stress levels. Delegating also engages and empowers your employees, helps build their skill sets, and boosts productivity in the workplace.
2. Ability to inspire and motivate
Employees depend on managers for support and guidance. By providing goals and objectives and a clear vision for how to meet them, you can keep employees motivated to perform their best. Other ways to inspire and motivate employees include finding ways to make work more engaging and rewarding and providing positive and helpful feedback.
Workplaces typically have occasional conflicts, so knowing how to navigate them makes managing easier. This skill involves identifying the cause or causes of conflicts and coming up with quick and effective remedies.
Decision-making involves identifying an issue, weighing options, and taking action. The ability to make decisions can save time, boost productivity, build trust, and reduce confusion in the workplace.
5. Effective communication
Being a manager involves interacting with people regularly. On any given day, you might run a staff meeting, make a presentation to board members, or resolve a conflict between two employees. In addition to conveying information, listening when communicating is essential. Practicing good listening helps you be present, maintain eye contact, and paraphrase what your speaker says.
6. Emotional intelligence
If you can manage your emotions and help manage the emotions of others, chances are you have emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent managers often have empathy for others, a sense of self-awareness, an ability to think before speaking or acting, and a high degree of resilience.
Roadblocks pop up in any workplace, and good managers know how to get around them. Flexibility involves finding multiple ways to manage a team, complete a task, or solve a problem.
As a manager, you may have much to handle at once, including tasks, reports, meetings, projects, and presentations. Good organizational skills can help. These include goal setting, scheduling, time management, and recordkeeping.
Problem-solving goes hand-in-hand with decision-making. The process involves identifying a problem, weighing solutions, choosing the best one, and evaluating whether or not it works. Managers who are good problem solvers have an easier time meeting company goals and objectives.
10. Strategic thinking
Managers who can strategically think offer great value to companies. Strategic thinking involves the following:
Analyzing data to come up with strategies
Creating strategies for meeting company goals and objectives
Thinking of ways to implement strategies
Directing others in the completion of goal-related tasks
Communicating the results to company stakeholders
Ways to develop managerial skills
Gaining new skills or improving the ones you have can help you be more successful in a management position. Whether you're a current manager or hoping to become one, consider these tips for developing management skills:
Seek advice and guidance from a mentor.
Read books about management theories, techniques, and styles.
Think about areas you need to improve, set goals, and take steps to achieve them.
Go back to school and get a certificate or a degree.
Attend industry-related training, conferences, and workshops.
Practice skills like active listening, delegating, and organization.
Join a public speaking group or take a public speaking or business writing class.
Look for opportunities to be a leader at work, home, class, or through volunteering or sports.
Develop people management skills.
You’ll ideally concentrate on developing specific people management skills. By focusing on specific competencies, you can build higher competency levels in each area compared to a general competency approach. Enrolling in professional development courses is a great way to learn new management techniques and improve your existing skills.
You might also want to find a mentor or business coach to guide you on competency gaps and how to refine them. Asking other managers for feedback or advice is another great way to learn more about yourself—and what you need to do to improve as a manager.
Next steps: Getting started with Coursera
To develop current management skills or pick up new ones, consider taking the Strategic Leadership and Management Specialization offered by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Coursera. You'll learn how to build good relationships in the workplace, lead teams, and inspire employee motivation and engagement. You'll also discover principles, theories, and frameworks to help you manage employees more effectively and explore long-term business and corporate strategy. At the end of the course, you'll participate in a capstone project where you can apply everything you've learned and receive a shareable career certificate.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.
Develop career skills and credentials to stand out
- Build in demand career skills with experts from leading companies and universities
- Choose from over 8000 courses, hands-on projects, and certificate programs
- Learn on your terms with flexible schedules and on-demand courses
Preventing and Managing Team Conflict
When colleagues in the workplace disagree, it can affect morale and productivity. Fortunately, a few smart conflict resolution strategies can help boost collaboration at work.
When a group of people work together, it’s inevitable that, sooner or later, there’s going to be disagreement over how things get done. But conflicts among team members must not always lead to low morale, plunging productivity, or bitter feelings.
A skillful manager with good conflict resolution skills can successfully resolve tense workplace situations in a way that leaves all team members feeling heard, respected, and motivated to continue doing their best.
In this blog, we’ll discuss exactly how leaders can do this— by identifying sources of conflict, developing strategies for resolving conflict, and working to prevent conflict from arising in the first place. Even in the post-COVID era in which employees often work from distant locales, there is a way that managers can ensure that all employees thrive and succeed on the job.
Why Do Workplace Conflicts Happen?
Amir takes pride in his work and sees Maria’s need for daily reports as “micro-managing.” Mary believes Mark’s frequent offhand comments to be racist and sexist. Luis and Dianne disagree vehemently about which approach to take on a project. Priyanka works in marketing but doesn’t get along with Kevin in accounting, who does his job with different objectives in mind.
If you’ve worked in any organization, these types of conflicts are the stuff of everyday life.
They arise when there are clashes of interests, desires, opinions, and beliefs. They can often be grouped into four broad categories:
- An employee believes he or she may have been discriminated against or harassed by another.
- Employees (or even departments) communicate poorly, resulting in inefficiencies and mistakes.
- Employees who work together have vastly different personalities and working styles.
- Employees in different divisions have opposing objectives and values.
When conflicts occur, it’s important to address them right away. If problems are left to fester, they can damage team bonds, sometimes irretrievably.
On the other hand, when managers confront issues quickly and directly, they can build a positive work culture in which all employees feel appreciated. That, in turn, can lead to better productivity, more innovation, and may even make it easier to recruit new employees who have heard about an organization’s stellar work culture.
What Conflict Resolution Skills Should a Manager Have?
One of the most important skills for any manager is the ability to communicate. Without that basic skill, almost nothing else matters. Good communication starts with good listening skills. By taking time to hear what employees have to say, leaders can better understand what the problem truly is and how it can be fixed.
Aside from good communication, managers should be curious. They need a high degree of emotional intelligence in which they are able to empathize and understand a team member’s point of view.
This emotional IQ should extend to treating people with integrity and respect, being patient, and not rushing to judgment, asking thoughtful questions, and staying calm when under pressure. The best leaders are also good problem-solvers who don’t take sides but look to find solutions that work for everyone.
What are the Top Conflict Resolution Strategies a Manager Can Use to Resolve Issues on a Team?
We all know there will be disputes and disagreements any time a group of humans come together to achieve a goal. When it happens, it’s important for a leader to know how to deal with it.
Management experts outline these key steps managers can take to resolve team conflict:
- Keep communication open and clear. Start by inviting colleagues to a face-to-face meeting in which differences can be aired. Choose a neutral impartial location like the work cafeteria or a walk outside.
- Listen . Talk with everyone on all sides. Be empathetic to what colleagues might be feeling. As you listen, pay attention to areas where there are commonalities in goals, interests, and strategies, as well as misalignments that might be used in a resolution that serves everyone’s interests.
- Focus on the problem, not the individuals . Acknowledge that there is a problem and be patient in taking time to understand every dimension of what is occuring.
- Identify points of agreement and disagreement. Consider what a team member’s interests may be, and where there are points of alignment .
- Develop a plan. In drawing up a plan to help resolve an issue, establish guidelines and prioritize actions and goals.
- Act decisively and follow through . Once you are able to identify a potential resolution, don’t procrastinate but act on it.
Browse all Leadership and Management programs at Harvard Professional Development Programs
How Can Conflict be Avoided?
While there’s no way to completely avoid disagreements at work, there are ways to reduce the likelihood of conflict.
- Focus on clear communication . It’s imperative that everyone involved speak to each other openly, clearly, and constructively.
- Approach emails with caution. Because electronic communications lack the context of tone and body language, they can be dangerous if they are the primary way in which problems are addressed. It’s best to meet in person when there is a disagreement. Even when everyone is on the same page, it’s still always helpful to keep your emails human and welcoming.
- Create a positive workplace culture . Foster an office culture of civility . Employees should feel safe about voicing their concerns about how work is being conducted without fearing retribution.
How Can You Manage Conflict in Remote/Hybrid Environments?
Dealing with conflict in an in-person work environment can be hard enough, but what happens in hybrid and remote environments where much communication is conducted by email without the benefit of face-to-face interactions?
An over reliance on text, chat, and emails can lead to perceived slights, assumptions, and misunderstandings, just because it’s so much harder to read the author’s intent.
A few tips that can keep conflict from developing in a remote environment include:
- Avoid using email to discuss or resolve conflicts. Instead, meet in person where tone of voice indicates intent, or at least meet via video conference.
- Provide tech support for remote employees. If remote and hybrid workers have trouble dealing with technology, it is likely to foment workplace conflict. Work with your company’s information technology division, as well as with supervisors to support their ability to effectively manage remote and hybrid workers.
- Make sure worker schedules are transparent and aligned . Invite input and discussion about scheduling decisions, and clearly state expectations.
- Trust your employees . Many managers can’t squelch a nagging feeling that remote and hybrid workers are slacking off. However, treating workers like they can’t be trusted will damage morale and de-motivate some of your best workers. Rely on results and conversations about workload to reassure you that employees are performing.
- Coach remote workers. Provide opportunities for remote workers to connect with each other and build more visibility. When remote workers build relationships with other team members, it can help cultivate a sense of trust and goodwill that can help prevent the assumptions that may lead to conflict.
- Provide a cooling off period when things get hot. When conflicts do arise, think twice before addressing them in the heat of the moment. Allow for a period of reflection, providing team members with written questions they can reflect on. In a later meeting, colleagues can be given an opportunity to ask questions and respond.
- Don’t forget the final objective . Workplace conflicts often arise because different team members have different ideas about how to achieve a common goal. Address this problem by framing the conflict with an organization’s broader mission and values. Those values should guide interactions and help make a path forward clearer.
In short, conflict among team members is an inescapable part of working life, but it doesn’t have to lead to acrimony and antagonism at the office. Using a few of the conflict management strategies we’ve discussed, you’ll find that you can resolve issues in a way that encourages a positive and productive work environment.
Join our mailing list for important updates and program offerings.
About the Author
Pamela Reynolds is a Boston-area feature writer and editor whose work appears in numerous publications. She is the author of “Revamp: A Memoir of Travel and Obsessive Renovation.”
How to Engage a Disengaged Employee
Employee disengagement may be a rising trend, but there are several ways to address the issue in the workplace.
Harvard Division of Continuing Education
The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) at Harvard University is dedicated to bringing rigorous academics and innovative teaching capabilities to those seeking to improve their lives through education. We make Harvard education accessible to lifelong learners from high school to retirement.
How it works
Join Mind Tools
Article • 9 min read
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. 
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. 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." 
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!
   Mind Tools interview with Peter A. Glaser, Ph.D. and Susan R. Glaser. Available here .
You've accessed 1 of your 2 free resources.
Get unlimited access
Discover more content
Promoting management succession.
Reviewing Sorcher and Brant’s ‘Six Traits’ Executives Over Rely on in Choosing Leaders
Boost Your Team's Engagement Infographic
Be the first to comment!
Sign-up to our newsletter
Subscribing to the Mind Tools newsletter will keep you up-to-date with our latest updates and newest resources.
Leadership and Management
How to Work Effectively With Consultants
What Is Strategy?
Mind Tools Store
About Mind Tools Content
Discover something new today
Improving physical health and wellbeing at work.
Avoiding the Dangers of Sitting Down
10 Recruitment Mistakes
How to Avoid Wasting Time and Money When Hiring
How Emotionally Intelligent Are You?
Boosting Your People Skills
What's Your Leadership Style?
Learn About the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Way You Like to Lead
Recommended for you
Top tips for declining a candidate after interview.
Tips for Effectively and Sensitively Declining Unsuccessful Candidates
What Is Discrimination? Video
Business Operations and Process Management
Business Ethics and Values
Handling Information and Data
Self-Development and Goal Setting
Negotiation, Persuasion and Influence
Working With Others
Stress Management and Wellbeing
Coaching and Mentoring
Delegation and Empowerment
Developing Your Team
- Coaching Skills Training
- Coaching TIPS²™
- Continuous Improvement Coaching
- Courageous Conversations Workshop
- Executive Coaching Program
- Feedback 360
- Safety Coaching
- Sales Coaching Training Program
- Free Consultation
- Applied Strategic Thinking®
- Strategic Leadership Course
- Strategic Teaming
- Strategy Development Processes and Services
- Communication Training for Managers
- Conflict and Collaboration
- Confronting Racism Workshop
- Delegation & Accountability
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Workshop
- Flexible Leadership
- Leading Change
- Leading Groups to Solutions
- Leading Innovation
- Mid-Level Management Training
- Qualities of Leadership
- Bottom Line Leadership
- Customized Leadership Development Programs
- Leadership Development Program Design
- Mini-MBA & Operational Finance
- Problem Solving and Decision Making in the Workplace
- Transition to Leadership
- Virtual Leadership
- High-Performance Teamwork
- Leadership Team Alignment Workshop
- Corporate Outdoor Training and Team Building
- Retreats for Teams
- Innovation Skills Training
- Personal Impact Workshop
- Supervisor Training Programs
- Customization of CMOE’s Learning Library
- Full Curriculum Development and Design
- Learning & Development Advisory Services
- Bottom Line Leadership Training
- Consulting Services
- Leadership Retreats
- Learning and Development Consulting Services
- Needs Analysis and Organization Assessments
- Transformation & Change Solutions
- Facilitator Training Workshop
- Empathic Leadership
- Supervisor Development Series
- All Courses
- Digital Learning
- Books and Publications
- Assessments and Surveys
- Clients Served
- History and Experience
- Meet the CMOE Team
- Articles & Tools
- Scenario Templates
- Certified Partners
- Event Resources
- Industry Insights
- Resource Library
- Video Library
- News and Events
- Professional Accreditation and Continuing Education Units
- Surveys & Assessments
Managers Must Be Effective Problem-Solvers
One of a manager’s most important responsibilities is to solve problems. Finding the answers to difficult questions that are sometimes a source of great perplexity and distress for the organization often falls to an organization’s leaders.
Here’s the deal:
A company’s success depends on managerial problem-solvers . Issues arrive in all sizes, ranging from daily nuisances to organizational crises.
Managers who have the ability to systematically think through the facts, diagnose the situation, and find an accurate and workable solution will help the business thrive and prosper.
Effective problem-solvers are able to guide teams towards the achievement of goals by eliminating frustration, confusion, and misunderstandings before they become unmanageable.
They build cooperation and collaboration between individuals, eliminate the need for rework, and foster continuous improvement.
The best managers can often sense problems with keen insight.
They may notice a deviation from standard team performance , such as a missed deadline or an unmet sales goal—and when the team’s plans go off the rails, these managers automatically begin the problem-solving process.
Fortunately, all managers can learn to solve problems more effectively by using this four-step process:
1. Identify and Define the Problem
Alert managers constantly watch for signals, symptoms, and signs that problems may exist. Once they see a potential issue, they think through whether this is a problem they can solve and whether it will make a critical impact on the team or organization.
Once the problem has been defined as a priority, they create a clear, quantitative problem statement and describe the situation in specific, objective terms without making assumptions or jumping to conclusions.
2. Analyze the Problem
The best problem-solvers analyze patterns and ask questions about what, who, when, where, and how much the problem has affected the business.
They are able to isolate and define the root cause of the issue so that once it’s been resolved, it’s unlikely to recur.
3. Develop Solutions
While problems sometimes come with easy answers, managerial problem-solving cannot be impulsive, risking the mistake of making snap decisions.
Instead, they use techniques like brainstorming ideas, creating prioritized lists, and evaluating the time, cost, and technology involved to assess the situation and design a long-term solution.
4. Plan and Act
Once the best solution has been identified, a good manager develops a solid implementation plan. This plan should include steps that will be taken to move forward, as well as contingency plans that will help the manager handle potential roadblocks.
He or she must also secure the commitment of others, mobilize them to act, and hold them accountable for their responsibilities.
The managerial problem-solving process is a never-ending cycle of planning, doing, checking, and acting, while also monitoring the situation and the outcomes. As needed, managers make adjustments to their plans so that the team can continue to move towards the solution that will lead them to better business results .
Recommended For You:
Leadership development workshops, get exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
When you subscribe to our blog and become a CMOE Insider.
And the best part?
It's 100% free.
As Featured In:
The Better Business Bureau has determined that CMOE meets accreditation standards. These standards verify that CMOE’s product quality and competence enhance customer trust and confidence.
©2023 Center for Management & Organization Effectiveness. All rights reserved.
27 Conflict Resolution Skills to Use with Your Team and Your Customers
Published: June 28, 2023
As much as we'd all love to work in an organization that's free from disagreements and conflicts, we know that we can't. That's why conflict resolution skills are a must.
Conflict is a type of communication that helps us collaborate to solve problems and better our environments so we can thrive within them. But even with that said, many of us still fear conflict.
In this blog post, we'll review different conflict management skills and conflict resolution strategies you can use to navigate a conflict you may be experiencing right now (or in the future).
Table of Contents
What is conflict resolution?
Conflict management skills, conflict resolution skills, conflict resolution strategies, conflict resolution examples.
Conflict resolution is the process in which two or more parties work toward a solution to a problem or dispute. The parties involved work together in a productive way to achieve a result that satisfies everyone involved.
This video talks all about what conflict resolution means and how you can better navigate workplace conflict.
Conflict management can be approached using a variety of different styles. While these styles may differ, every method utilizes the same management skills.
Below are some of the core skills and characteristics that you'll need to adopt if you want to effectively manage workplace conflicts.
1. Active Listening
Active listening focuses on being attentive to what the other person has to say.
This skill is commonly used by salespeople to better connect with customers during a pitch, but it's also a universal competency that any consummate professional should master.
To practice active listening, the most important thing you can do is have an open mind (and open ears!). Additionally, be sure to ask questions when you're confused about a point and focus on identifying the other person's goals.
Pro tip: When dealing with conflict, try to make note of the other person's phrasing. Then, respond using their same wording. This demonstrates that you were listening and helps clear up any confusion about the points being discussed.
2. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence describes the ability to perceive and understand other peoples' emotions as well as your own.
This skill is essential when managing conflict because it prevents the situation from escalating. If you can effectively interpret your opposition's emotions, it'll be easier to communicate with them without provoking them.
Pro tip: Recognizing and curtailing confusion, anger, and frustration from the conflict leaves space for everyone involved to think creatively and logically about a solution.
Conflicts are rarely simple to overcome. If they were, there wouldn't be thousands of people searching for "conflict resolution" on the internet each month.
Conflict resolution is so difficult because people don't like to be wrong and will often hold their stance on an issue because of it. If you're looking to resolve a conflict with a person like this, you'll need patience.
It's important to keep in mind that the problem may not be solved right away, even if the solution is obvious. Ideally, you'll want to take the time to listen to every participant and value each argument evenly.
Pro tip: Even if there's a clear answer, rushing to a resolution can make people feel like they're left out in the decision-making process. Take the time to equally consider all options — it'll save you the headache later.
Another reason conflicts can be difficult to resolve is because they don't always stay focused on the conflict itself.
The conflict can sometimes serve as an opportunity to air previous grievances that have developed between the involved parties over time. Now, the problem at hand can't be resolved until the historical issues are addressed.
In this type of situation, it's best to separate the conflict from the people who are involved with it. Don't focus on the people and their personal characteristics.
Instead, look at the problem itself and center your energy on finding a solution.
Pro tip: While it might be important to work through those past issues at some point, don't deprioritize the situation at hand now to solve the older ones. Remember the mantra: important vs. urgent .
It's hard to come to agree on a solution if no one is happy about it.
Even if you do agree, a half-hearted compromise doesn't motivate you to actually follow through on your end of the bargain. This can even provide a participant with an excuse to avoid dealing with the conflict altogether.
Being positive with your conflict management actions is a great way to keep the conversation moving forward. Conflicts are full of roadblocks and you'll need to be willing to overcome them if you want to come to a resolution.
Pro tip: Having a positive attitude going into the conflict can help other participants who may be wary of the interaction feel more at ease.
6. Open Communication
Relationships between the people involved in a conflict don't always go back to normal when a problem is resolved. This relationship needs to be nurtured after a solution is found in order to prevent future issues from arising.
If new challenges arise, a precedent of open communication should make it easier for participants to address the roadblock without risking any progress they've previously made.
Pro tip: An open line of communication is the best approach for fostering a healthy, long-term relationship. This allows both parties to check in on one another and make sure that both ends of the agreement are being upheld.
While understanding these skills can help you and your team manage conflicts and prevent them from escalating, it's important to understand how you can apply them in action when a conflict emerges.
In the next section, we break down some of the ways you can use these skills to produce effective resolutions to conflict.
- Use 'yes, and' statements.
- Don't point fingers.
- Let the person explain themselves, and actively listen.
- Use 'I' statements.
- Maintain a calm tone.
- Show a willingness to compromise or collaborate.
- Don't talk behind people's backs.
- Don't take anything personally.
- Pay close attention to nonverbal communication.
- Prioritize resolving the conflict over being right.
- Know when to apologize and forgive.
- Focus on the conflict at hand and not past ones.
- Use humor, when appropriate.
- Remember the importance of the relationship.
The management skills that we listed above are crucial for conflict resolution because they help produce effective, long-term solutions.
Applying these skills at the right time and in the right situation will help reduce miscommunication and create more opportunities for participants to reach common ground.
If you're not quite sure how you can best use these skills to resolve your disputes, take a look at these tips we recommend considering when approaching your next conflict.
1. Use 'yes, and' statements.
In any conflict, whether it be professional or personal, it's easy to jump to the defense. Your banter might include a series of "no's" and "yes, but" statements which might come across as uncooperative.
Rather than getting defensive about an attack on your argument, take it as an opportunity to see things from a different point of view. You don't have to agree with that person, but you can try to understand where they're coming from.
Pro tip: Try changing those "I hear you, but" statements into "Yes, I understand, and" statements that build off one another, rather than tearing each other down.
2. Don't point fingers.
On the opposite side, jumping on the offensive is also disrespectful. Being on the offensive creates a negative foundation that makes it nearly impossible to find a solution.
Don't put blame on others or create a space in which someone feels unsafe to voice their opinion.
Pro tip: The best way to solve a conflict is by allowing each person to frame their argument without being blamed or shut down. After all, you wouldn't appreciate the same being done to you, either.
3. Let the person explain themselves, and actively listen.
Listening is a huge aspect of conflict resolution that's typically overlooked.
It might seem imperative to get your voice in as much as possible so you can explain every little detail of your argument and try as hard as you can to get the opposing party to see your side.
But don't let this idea tempt you. The temporary satisfaction of "airing it out" isn't worth it in the long run.
Pro tip: Let the other person explain themselves, uninterrupted. You may find that you misinterpreted their original argument and you'll be more equipped to handle compromising or collaborating on a new solution.
4. Use 'I' statements.
Similar to pointing fingers, a series of statements that begin with "you" can come across as blaming.
Conflict shouldn't be about what the other person is doing wrong. It's about what you believe you're doing right and how to get the other side to understand.
Thus, using "I" statements make your argument more about your emotions, opinions, personal beliefs, and morals, rather than about all the things you don't like about the opposing party.
No one can disagree with opinions or feelings you believe or standby, plus they make for a more respectful debate that reminds all parties that cognitively complex humans are involved.
Pro tip: Use "I feel like I'm not getting the chance to explain myself" rather than "You're not listening to me" or something similar. This strategy can really transform your conversation.
5. Maintain a calm tone.
You'll benefit from remaining level-headed in order to think rationally about a solution that appeases both parties. This can be a tough one because it's not always easy to hear your tone from someone else's perspective.
Because of this, there's one trick you can practice to avoid having a discourteous tone when mitigating conflicts.
When you enter the conflict resolution meeting, you should be calm and ready to discuss with consideration for differing perspectives.
Pro tip: Wait until you've let out your emotions before you plan a time to meet and discuss with the opposing party. You're allowed to yell, cry, vent, or whatever else you need before the conversation takes place — but not during it.
6. Show a willingness to compromise or collaborate.
Depending on the situation, other conflict management styles may be more effective.
- For smaller, trivial conflicts, avoiding them may make sense.
- An accommodating style may work when the other party seems to care much more about the solution than you do.
- A compromising style could be the choice when there is limited time to make a decision and you simply need to put your foot down.
However, in most other significant conflicts, it's essential to come to some sort of agreement between both parties.
Show the opposing party that, as much as you care about the conflict and presenting your side, you care more about coming to a solution that is productive for everyone involved.
Pro tip: Sometimes you'll simply need to let go of your pride and your grip on your argument. It's easier said than done, but it'll get you one step closer to a resolution.
7. Don't talk behind people's backs.
What happens between you and the opposing party should stay between you and them, unless it's absolutely necessary to divulge the details of your conflict.
But when's a good time to share the details of a conflict?
Believe it or not, there's a golden rule about sharing sensitive information like conflict resolutions — share up, not out or down.
This means that if you feel comfortable and if it's significant to your role, you can confide in your supervisor or someone in a higher position than you about the conflict.
They can help you navigate the situation and help you form a support system for future conflicts that may arise.
This also means that you should never share the details with a colleague in a similar role or someone subordinate to you as they aren't likely able to offer this same level of support.
Conflict resolution should always be built on honesty with one another and trust that what was said will remain confidential.
While you may sometimes have the urge to vent, consider other options to do so that won't affect the reputation of that person.
Pro tip: Alternatively, you could write out your feelings in a journal or talk to someone outside of work who has no ties to that person and keep their name anonymous. This way, you can protect the privacy of the conversation.
8. Don't take anything personally.
A conflict with a customer or team member is typically not a conflict with you, personally. It usually involves policies that you as an employee must adhere to or even unvoiced expectations that other people have for your role or profession.
Thus, a conflict that emerges is rarely ever an attack on you as an individual.
Many people get defensive or upset or refuse to budge on an argument because they cling to their viewpoint as a part of themselves. Try to avoid this.
Pro tip: If you can learn to separate yourself from the conflict, it will be a lot easier to accept compromise or a collaborated solution that is, at the end of the day, better for all parties involved.
9. Pay close attention to nonverbal communication.
Not everyone is great at handling conflict head-on. These are the people who might typically lean towards avoiding or accommodating conflict management styles.
Basically, these people don't like conflict and won't always be transparent with you about what they want or need. In these situations, it's important to pay attention to their nonverbal communication.
When someone says "I'm fine," you can tell they're not fine if they avert their eyes. Then, you can create an environment that makes that person feel more comfortable being honest with you.
Pro tip: Body language can tell you when someone is saying one thing but means another. By being emotionally aware , you can notice when someone's posture, gestures, or facial expressions differ from their words.
10. Prioritize resolving the conflict over being right.
A conflict in the workplace is typically one that involves more than just yourself.
Perhaps it's a frustrating call with an angry customer or an issue with a policy change implemented by your manager. Whatever it may be, the situation goes beyond you.
Thus, when you're trying to resolve the conflict, you might need to take a step back and assess the situation in such a way. Conflict resolution is occasionally about making those sacrifices.
Pro tip: Try to r ecognize that, even if you have a strong opinion on one end of the spectrum, it might be beneficial to wave the white flag if it ultimately improves the conditions for everyone else.
11. Know when to apologize and forgive.
Two of the hardest words to say are, "I'm sorry." It's not easy to apologize when you feel like you were right all along.
Don't let pride deter you from making amends with the opposing party.
Pro tip: In an instance when the other person might be responsible for apologizing to you, you may feel too riled up to forgive. But remember, these relationships are professional, first. Focus on that.
12. Focus on the conflict at hand and not past ones.
In attempting to resolve a conflict, you may start getting frustrated with the other person.
This can bring up memories of past conflicts you've had with that person. And, in the heat of the moment, it can feel like the perfect time to bring those up, too.
Any pent-up frustrations about past conflicts that were never resolved should not be brought up later on when trying to resolve a different conflict. The time has passed, and it's important to remain in the present.
Pro tip: I like to consider a 48-hour rule . If a conflict emerges or there's something that bothers you about someone else, you should reach out and ask to discuss it within 48 hours. Once that time frame has passed, let it go.
13. Use humor, when appropriate.
Using humor to lighten the mood during conflict resolution is only appropriate in conflicts that are not personal. You never want to offend someone by making a joke about a sensitive topic.
Instead, consider humor to be a tool to make you both loosen up and feel more comfortable discussing a solution.
Pro tip: Read the opposing party, and use your best judgment to decide if humor is something they would appreciate. Sometimes, that's all it takes to end an argument and turn it into a constructive conversation.
14. Remember the importance of the relationship.
At the end of the day, a conflict is usually one small roadblock in an otherwise healthy relationship.
Whether you need to remember the good times or change the scenery and discuss a different topic, try to remember how the relationship was prior to the conflict and operate within that headspace as you reach common ground.
Now that we've reviewed conflict resolution skills, let's take a look at a few strategies that can help you put these skills to good use.
The Thomas-Kilmann Model of conflict resolution describes five strategies for addressing conflict. The five strategies lie on two axes: assertive and cooperative.
Each of the strategies ranges between assertiveness and unassertiveness and cooperative and uncooperative. No strategy is right or wrong, there's an appropriate time to use each one.
The accommodating style is commonly seen when people want to be unassertive and cooperative. Not every conflict needs to be a war — conflicts worth accommodating are those battles that are strategically lost to win the war.
Here's an example:
Let's say a colleague or customer complains about a process, but not an outcome. Perhaps you ran a report that yielded the results the other party needed, but the report was in PDF form and not Excel.
The other person didn't specify a preference but took issue with the delivery. By simply accommodating the request, you prove to be a helpful, solutions-oriented team member. Plus, you'll get bonus points if you deliver the correct report quickly.
The avoiding conflict strategy is reserved for individuals who are more inclined to be unassertive and uncooperative in mitigating conflict.
Generally, this is an apathetic approach — people who adopt this strategy want no parts of the conflict and would rather wait for it to blow over.
This strategy is best for small annoyances, one-off mistakes, and issues that would otherwise be worsened by addressing them.
A conflict you might avoid in the workplace is when someone drinks the last of the water from the water cooler without replacing the water container.
If it's a one-time issue, leave it be. It's likely not worth the 2-minute discussion in the all-hands meeting.
If you want to keep a relationship intact and find a solution that works for everyone, try the collaborative style of conflict resolution.
This strategy is both cooperative and assertive which means that all parties will be heard and the solution that is chosen should work well for everyone.
A conflict you might collaborate on at work is a process between two separate teams. Perhaps the sales team needs to hand off customers to the support team once the deal is closed, but customers aren't being contacted after the handoff.
The two teams may collaborate to streamline the workflow. The sales team may stagger the deals they close so that support can keep up with the demand. It's a win-win for both parties.
Assertive and uncooperative, the competing conflict style is an intense approach to resolving grievances.
It's not uncommon for a competing conflict resolution strategy to yield a positive outcome for one party and a negative outcome for the other. This strategy isn't one to make new friends, so tread lightly.
You might see a competing conflict management strategy used when negotiating deals. Lawyers may use this strategy to get the best legal outcome for their client at the expense of the other party.
A competing strategy works here because it's highly unlikely that the lawyer will cross paths with the opposing party again, so there's no relationship to maintain or salvage later.
People tend to compromise during conflicts when they are assertive and cooperative in negotiating a solution.
This strategy may sound harsh, but it's usually employed when time is of the essence and there's no time to hear everyone's concerns or opinions.
The compromise is based on the most important and urgent facts that can bring about a decision that works for the time being.
A team might compromise on a solution to cancel an event at the last minute due to issues with the venue. While it may not be the best solution for revenue, prolonging the conflict doesn't help the situation.
So a compromise to cancel the event and figure the rest out later is the best solution for customers, employees, and vendors.
In addition to these five conflict resolution strategies, the following two tips can accompany any of the above to reach a resolution.
Tip 1: Set boundaries.
Before diving head-first into the conflict discussion, establish boundaries upfront for all parties to follow. These might include the following:
- Reminding everyone that the conflict is not personal
- Asking everyone to keep the discussion confidential
- Trusting everyone to manage their emotions and not make outburst, hurtful remarks, or make untrue statements
Tip 2: Have a third-party weigh-in.
In some cases, the conflict may simply be too emotional to address yourself.
If you're afraid of retaliation, discrimination, or other inappropriate or illegal ramifications for addressing conflict, it may help to have a third-party weigh in to address, or at least mediate, the conflict on your behalf.
A neutral third party can either act as a sounding board to retrieve the facts from each party to achieve a resolution, or they may simply guide the conversation and keep time so that you don't waste time having an unproductive conversation.
Next, we've highlighted some conflict resolution examples based on common conflicts in the workplace.
Conflicts can emerge from several different factors including miscommunication, prioritization, and unmet expectations.
Below, we'll describe three scenarios that depict each of these common causes for conflict and how to resolve them with one of the strategies listed above.
Scenario 1: Unmet Expectations
Marcus and Ollie work at TechTak, a start-up that provides marketing and sales solutions to small businesses. They're working on a pitch presentation for their biggest client to date, SaveSend.
The presentation is scheduled for next Thursday with Maria, the program director at Save Send, so it's important that Marcus and Ollie finish it on time.
At the alignment meeting last week, TechTak's client services department head, Riley, delegated the presentation content to Marcus' team and gave the design responsibility to Ollie.
On the Tuesday before the presentation date, Riley sent an email to check the status of the presentation and how well the two teams were working together.
Unfortunately, Ollie hadn't received any content from Marcus' team to design the presentation around. On the other hand, Marcus hadn't received creative direction from Ollie so his team could write enough content.
With Thursday's deadline approaching and no presentation draft in sight, Ollie and Marcus are both frustrated and anxious to complete the project on time. How should both teams resolve this conflict?
Let's look at the facts:
- Time is of the essence and delaying the presentation isn't an option.
- Both Ollie and Marcus need more information to complete their assigned tasks.
- The line of communication has been opened by a third party, Riley.
Based on what we know about each conflict resolution strategy, the collaborative style would work best for this situation. Marcus and Ollie are under a time crunch, and the work will need to be done in the next two days.
They can use Riley as a neutral third party to help them outline the specifications of the project and assign strict deadlines that both parties can agree on.
Scenario 2: Out of Order
Brenda and Candace both work as administrative assistants for the local credit union MetroMoney. Their roles are highly dependent upon one another, and as a result, they've become good friends both at work and in their personal lives.
At MetroMoney, Brenda focuses on scheduling appointments for new members to open accounts while Candace prepares the documents they'll need to sign when they arrive.
Due to the nature of the role, Brenda's workflow moves much faster than Candace's. Brenda can schedule about 10 appointments each day while Candace can prepare about five document packages in her shift.
Occasionally, some customer's documents aren't prepared at the time of their appointment as Candace prepares documents in the order that appointments are set, not the date on which they're scheduled.
On this particular day, Brenda asked Candace to expedite the documents for two customers who were set to arrive soon. Candace responded that she couldn't because her cadence would be out of order.
Instead, she asked Brenda to reschedule the customers' appointments for a week later when their documents would be ready.
How can Brenda and Candace work together to make sure the customers will have their documents when they arrive at their appointment?
- Brenda and Candace both have goals to achieve each day, neither of which can be ignored completely.
- Timing is important, but there is some wiggle room for both parties to work within.
- If the customers' documents aren't ready, they won't be able to open their accounts, which affects the bottom line for both Brenda and Candace.
We know that Brenda and Candace have a strong relationship and some leeway in solving this issue, so they could collaborate to solve the conflict.
By asserting their needs and cooperating with each other, Brenda can reschedule the customers' appointments for the end of the week, and Candace can reorganize her workload to prioritize their documents first.
The benefit of collaborating on this resolution is that both Brenda and Cadance can maintain their otherwise seamless working relationship without any hard feelings later on.
Scenario 3: The Interview
Sadie is applying for a role as a customer service representative at Humbolt Hardware, a hardware subscription service for DIY home renovators.
Jim, the hiring manager, scheduled her interview for Wednesday at noon and Sadie agreed to arrive at that time.
On Wednesday, Sadie logged in to Zoom for her interview with Jim, but ten minutes passed and he didn't show up or respond to her email asking if he could still make it.
An hour later, Jim responds to Sadie's email saying he's online and ready for the interview.
Sadie was unavailable and didn't see the email until later that evening. When she responded, they both realized that they were operating in two different time zones, and neither of them confirmed which one.
Jim, unfortunately, doesn't have any openings available to reschedule the interview tomorrow and Sadie is frustrated with the process thus far.
How should Sadie and Jim proceed?
- Sadie is applying for a role and is willing to be flexible to secure the job with Humbolt Hardware, but she still wants to make the most of her time during the interview process.
- Jim's schedule is busy and he has several interviews scheduled aside from Sadie's.
- Neither Sadie nor Jim intended to miscommunicate the time of the interview and both made an effort to show up at the time they thought was correct.
The accommodating conflict resolution strategy is the most applicable in this situation. The bright side is, both individuals have some motivation to accommodate the other person.
Sadie wants to put her best foot forward and be a stand-out candidate for the role. Jim wants to vet all the candidates and fill the role as quickly as possible.
So long as both parties specify the time zone of the interview this time around, they'll have solved the conflict in a way that is amicable and productive.
Manage and Resolve Conflicts Like a Pro
Conflict doesn't have to be a scary eight-letter word.
Addressing conflict is how we strengthen our relationships and express our expectations in relation to those of others.
By understanding the five conflict resolution strategies and applying the skills that make them effective, you'll know exactly when to avoid conflict and when to address it.
Your relationships with your coworkers and customers will be better for it.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in March 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Don't forget to share this post!
30 Empathy Phrases Customer Service Reps Should Use
20 Essential Customer Service Job Skills (& How to Gauge Them)
How to Be Persuasive with Customers
22 Customer Service Skills For a Positive Customer Experience
Expert Tips for Conflict Management for Every Personality Type
Customer Complaints: 8 Common Complaints & How to Resolve Them
How to Deal With a Difficult (or Angry) Customer: 16 Tips
9 Pieces of Career Advice from Women in Customer Success
The Do's and Don'ts of Positive Scripting in Customer Service [Template]
14 Common Customer Service Phrases to Avoid
5 free templates to help individuals develop, improve, and master skills.
- Browse Topics
- Executive Committee
- Affiliated Faculty
- Harvard Negotiation Project
- Great Negotiator
- American Secretaries of State Project
- Awards, Grants, and Fellowships
- Negotiation Programs
- Mediation Programs
- One-Day Programs
- In-House Training and Custom Programs
- In-Person Programs
- Online Programs
- Advanced Materials Search
- Contact Information
- The Teaching Negotiation Resource Center Policies
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Negotiation Journal
- Harvard Negotiation Law Review
- Working Conference on AI, Technology, and Negotiation
- PON 40th Anniversary Symposium
- Free Reports
- Upcoming Events
- Past Events
- Event Series
- Our Mission
- Keyword Index
PON – Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School - https://www.pon.harvard.edu
Team-Building Strategies: Building a Winning Team for Your Organization
Discover how to build a winning team and boost your business negotiation results in this free special report, Team Building Strategies for Your Organization, from Harvard Law School.
5 Conflict Resolution Strategies
Use these proven conflict resolution strategies in your conflict management efforts..
By Katie Shonk — on August 3rd, 2023 / Conflict Resolution
Whether a conflict erupts at work or at home, we frequently fall back on the tendency to try to correct the other person or group’s perceptions, lecturing them about why we’re right—and they’re wrong. Deep down, we know that this conflict resolution approach usually fails to resolve the conflict and often only makes it worse.
Here are 5 conflict resolution strategies that are more effective, drawn from research on negotiation and conflicts, to try out the next time you’re tempted to argue your point.
Claim your FREE copy: The New Conflict Management
In our FREE special report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School - The New Conflict Management: Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies to Avoid Litigation – renowned negotiation experts uncover unconventional approaches to conflict management that can turn adversaries into partners.
- Conflict resolution strategy #1: Recognize that all of us have biased fairness perceptions. Both parties to a conflict typically think they’re right (and the other side is wrong) because they quite literally can’t get out of our own heads. Our sense of what would constitute a fair conflict resolution is biased by egocentrism , or the tendency to have difficulty seeing a situation from another person’s perspective, research by Carnegie Mellon University professors Linda Babcock and George Loewenstein and their colleagues’ shows. When embroiled in a conflict, we need to try to overcome our self-centered fairness perceptions. We might do this by jointly hiring a mediator who can help us see one another’s point of view, or by enlisting another type of unbiased expert, such as an appraiser, to offer their view of the “facts.”
- Conflict resolution strategy #2: Avoid escalating tensions with threats and provocative moves. When we feel we’re being ignored or steamrolled, we often try to capture the other party’s attention by making a threat, such as saying we’ll take a dispute to court or try to ruin the other party’s business reputation. There’s a time and place for litigation, but threats and other attention-getting moves, such as take-it-or-leave-it offers, are often a mistake. Because of the common human tendency to treat others the way they’re treated, people tend to respond to threats in kind, leading to an escalatory spiral and worsening conflict. Before making a threat, be sure you have exhausted all other options for managing conflict .
- Conflict resolution strategy #3: Overcome an “us versus them” mentality. Group connections build loyalty and strong relationships, but they can also promote suspicion and hostility toward members of out-groups. As a result, groups in conflict tend to have an inaccurate understanding of each other’s views and to see the other’s positions as more extreme than they actually are. Whether dealing with conflict as a group or on your own, you can overcome the tendency to demonize the other side by looking for an identity or goal you share. Begin your conflict management efforts by highlighting your common goal of reaching a fair and sustainable agreement. Try to identify and discuss points of similarity between you, such as growing up in the same region. The more points of connection you can identify, the more collaborative and productive your conflict resolution process is likely to be.
- Conflict resolution strategy #4: Look beneath the surface to identify deeper issues. Our deepest disputes often seem to involve money: labor disputes over employee wages, family conflicts over assets, for example. Because money is a finite resource, these conflicts tend to be single-issue battles in which one party’s gain will inevitably be the other party’s loss. But disputes over money often involve much deeper causes of conflict , such as the feeling that one is being disrespected or overlooked. The next time you find yourself arguing over the division of funds, suggest putting that conversation on hold. Then take time to explore each other’s deeper concerns. Listen closely to one another’s grievances, and try to come up with creative ways to address them. This conflict management strategy is likely to strengthen the relationship and add new interests to the table, expanding the pie of value to be divided in the process.
- Conflict resolution strategy #5: Separate sacred from pseudo-sacred issues. Conflict management can be particularly intractable when core values that negotiators believe are sacred, or nonnegotiable, are involved, such as their family bonds, religious beliefs, political views, or personal moral code. Take the case of two siblings who disagree about whether to sell their deceased parents’ farm, with one of them insisting the land must remain in the family and the other arguing that the parents would want them to sell it. We tend to err on the side of not negotiating when sacred principles and values are at stake, writes Program on Negotiation Chair Robert Mnookin in his book Bargaining with the Devil: When to Negotiate, When to Fight. But many of the issues negotiators consider sacred are actually pseudo-sacred , notes Harvard Business School professor Max H. Bazerman—that is, the issues are only off-limits under certain conditions. So it’s important to thoroughly analyze the benefits you might expect from a negotiation that could allow you to honor your principles. For example, the sibling’s objections to selling the family land might soften if a percentage of the proceeds are donated to the parents’ favorite charity.
How do you deal with conflict? Do you use any of these strategies?
- Conflict Resolution Success Stories: A Surprising Tale from Congress
- Types of Conflict in Business Negotiation—and How to Avoid Them
- Cognitive Biases in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution – Common Negotiation Mistakes
- Strategies to Resolve Conflict over Deeply Held Values
- A Case Study of Conflict Management and Negotiation
No Responses to “5 Conflict Resolution Strategies”
6 responses to “5 conflict resolution strategies”.
Useful tips. I really like 1 and 3, finding similarities really help to build a stronger relationship between two people.
Great advice! I especially like 1 and 3 above for their simplicity and broad applicability to different types of disputes.
Conflict resolution is quickly becoming a passionate subject for me. Nice article.
Conflict is just as literal as it is named. Thanks for this great article!
Great points. Love reading and learning this content
The power of listening the other party can make negotiating easy and gave trust to deal with,interest of every one should be clerarly defined about the goal and the issue of negotiation.
Click here to cancel reply.
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
[get_post_by_name page_title="N&L Widget Details Spring"] -->
Negotiation and Leadership
- Learn More about Negotiation and Leadership
NEGOTIATION MASTER CLASS
- Learn More about Harvard Negotiation Master Class
Negotiation Essentials Online
- Learn More about Negotiation Essentials Online
Select Your Free Special Report
- Negotiation Master Class May 2024 Program Guide
- Negotiation and Leadership Spring 2024 Program Guide
- Negotiation Master Class November 2023 Program Guide
- Negotiation Essentials Online (NEO) Spring, Summer, and Fall 2023 Program Guide
- Negotiation and Leadership Fall 2023 Program Guide
- Make the Most of Online Negotiations
- Managing Multiparty Negotiations
- Getting the Deal Done
- Salary Negotiation: How to Negotiate Salary: Learn the Best Techniques to Help You Manage the Most Difficult Salary Negotiations and What You Need to Know When Asking for a Raise
- Overcoming Cultural Barriers in Negotiation: Cross Cultural Communication Techniques and Negotiation Skills From International Business and Diplomacy
Teaching Negotiation Resource Center
- Teaching Materials and Publications
Stay Connected to PON
Preparing for negotiation.
Understanding how to arrange the meeting space is a key aspect of preparing for negotiation. In this video, Professor Guhan Subramanian discusses a real world example of how seating arrangements can influence a negotiator’s success. This discussion was held at the 3 day executive education workshop for senior executives at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.
Guhan Subramanian is the Professor of Law and Business at the Harvard Law School and Professor of Business Law at the Harvard Business School.
Articles & Insights
- Learning from BATNA Examples in Negotiation
- How to Deal with a Hardball Strategy When You Have a Weak BATNA
- BATNA Strategy: Should You Reveal Your BATNA?
- For Business Negotiators, Patience Can be a Virtue
- Taylor Swift: Negotiation Mastermind?
- Four Ways to Manage Conflict in the Workplace
- How to Negotiate a Business Deal
- 4 Sales Negotiation Traps—and How to Overcome Them
- Right of First Refusal: A Potentially Win-Win Negotiation Tool
- How to Respond to Questions in Negotiation
- Famous Negotiations Cases – NBA and the Power of Deadlines at the Bargaining Table
- What is Crisis Management in Negotiation?
- Police Negotiation Techniques from the NYPD Crisis Negotiations Team
- Crisis Communication Examples: What’s So Funny?
- Simple Conflict Management Tools Keep Order in the Senate
- How to Handle Difficult Customers
- Dealing with Difficult People and Negotiation: When Should You Give Up the Fight?
- Managing Difficult Employees, and Those Who Just Seem Difficult
- Dealing with Difficult People: Coping with an Insulting Offer in Contract Negotiations
- Ethics in Negotiations: How to Deal with Deception at the Bargaining Table
- Lessons for Business Negotiators: Negotiation Techniques from International Diplomacy
- Writing the Negotiated Agreement
- 5 Dealmaking Tips for Closing the Deal
- 15 Top Business Negotiations
- The Winner’s Curse: Avoid This Common Trap in Auctions
- Three Questions to Ask About the Dispute Resolution Process
- The Importance of Power in Negotiations: Taylor Swift Shakes it Off
- Emotional Triggers: How Emotions Affect Your Negotiating Ability
- What is Dispute System Design?
- Conflict Negotiation Strategies: When Do Employees Choose to Negotiate?
- India’s Direct Approach to Conflict Resolution
- The Pros and Cons of Back-Channel Negotiations
- How To Create a Better Deal in International Bargaining Situations
- How to Overcome Cultural Barriers in Communication – Cultural Approximations of Time and the Impact on Negotiations
- Negotiation Analysis: The US, Taliban, and the Bergdahl Exchange
- Advantages and Disadvantages of Leadership Styles: Uncovering Bias and Generating Mutual Gains
- Collaborative Leadership: Managing Constructive Conflict
- How an Authoritarian Leadership Style Blocks Effective Negotiation
- Nelson Mandela: Negotiation Lessons from a Master
- Challenges Facing Women Negotiators
- Undecided on Your Dispute Resolution Process? Combine Mediation and Arbitration, Known as Med-Arb
- What Makes a Good Mediator?
- Arbitration vs Mediation: The Definition of Mediation as a Problem Solving Process
- Negotiations and Logrolling: Discover Opportunities to Generate Mutual Gains
- Mediation Training: What Can You Expect?
- The Power of a Simple Thank You in Negotiation
- For a Mutually Beneficial Agreement, Collaboration is Key
- How to Portray Confidence in Negotiation So You Don’t Look Desperate
- Negotiation in International Relations: Finding Common Ground
- Does Using Technology in Negotiation Change Our Behavior?
- 3-D Negotiation Strategy
- Collaborative Negotiation Examples: Tenants and Landlords
- Negotiation Training: What’s Special About Technology Negotiations?
- Use a Negotiation Preparation Worksheet for Continuous Improvement
- 10 Negotiation Training Skills Every Organization Needs
- How to Counter a Job Offer: Avoid Common Mistakes
- Negotiating Salary: Confronting the Gender Pay Gap
- Dispute Resolution Example: The Chicago Symphony’s Contract Dispute
- Renegotiate Salary to Your Advantage
- Are Salary Negotiation Skills Different for Men and Women?
- Managing Emotions in Negotiation: Teaching Students to Turn Emotions into an Opportunity for Mutual Gain
- High Stakes Negotiations in the Healthcare Industry
- Power Asymmetry and the Principal Agent Problem
- Negotiating with Colleagues: Training for Collaborative Human Resources Negotiations
- Learn from the Best with the Great Negotiator Case Studies
- How to Use Tradeoffs to Create Value in Your Negotiations
- Win-Lose Negotiation Examples
- What is a Win-Win Negotiation?
- Win Win Negotiation: Managing Your Counterpart’s Satisfaction
- Labor Negotiation Strategies
- Negotiation Data Repository (NDR)
- Follow the Science: Proven Strategies for Reducing Unconscious Bias
- Turning Difficult Mediation Moments into Opportunities
- Cyber Negotiations: The Case of Ransomware
- Facilitated Dialogue: Possibilities, Pitfalls, and Practice Notes
- When Gender Matters in Negotiation
Remember Me This setting should only be used on your home or work computer.
Lost your password? Create a new password of your choice.
Copyright © 2023 Negotiation Daily. All rights reserved.
Morsa Images / Getty Images
By Colin Baker Leaders Staff
Leadership and Business Writer
Colin Baker is a business writer for Leaders Media. He has a background in as a television journalism, working as...
Learn about our editorial policy
Updated Apr 19, 2022
The 5 Conflict Management Skills Every Leader Needs
What is conflict management, understanding the 5 conflict management styles, 5 conflict management skills that drive impact, a quick note about serious conflict, manage conflict with a humble heart and mind.
When Yahoo named Marissa Mayer as its new president and CEO in 2012, many people, including industry experts, thought she would turn the struggling company around. Instead, her tenure only lasted five years . One of the most significant factors leading to her downfall was the conflict she generated at Yahoo. For example, Mayer ended a work-from-home program that many employees loved. Her micromanaging tactics left team members with frayed nerves. Talented workers left for greener pastures. By the time of her resignation in 2017, tensions in the company were high, conflict was common, and Yahoo saw little success as a result.
The story of Marissa Mayer shows that when there’s conflict in the workplace, businesses struggle. Conflict leads to an unsustainable and even toxic work environment. According to a CPP Global Inc. report , U.S.-based employees become involved in conflict almost three hours every week . This results in a loss of productivity and a higher likelihood of employees quitting. The report also shows that 60 percent of employees received no conflict management training to help them deal with the issues they may encounter.
As a leader, you need to be ready to manage workplace conflict, sometimes at the drop of a hat. Some of the most successful companies in the world (GM, Google, Apple) make strides in bringing their teams together, not tearing them apart. You can follow their example with conflict management skills designed to ease friction. As you do so, you’ll turn your team into an impactful one.
In this article, learn more about:
- What conflict management is.
- The difference between conflict management styles.
- And the conflict resolution skills you need to promote a positive team culture and environment where people enjoy working.
Conflict management is the practice and skill set that allows managers to identify, prevent, minimize, and eliminate conflict in the workplace . Excellent leadership skills in conflict management creates beneficial business outcomes because it treats all parties involved with respect and fairness. When leaders undertake conflict management correctly, everyone feels valued and understood no matter the “side” they’re on.
Just like leadership styles , there are several conflict management styles. It’s important to note that no single style works for every situation. For this reason, you must learn to be flexible and use the appropriate style depending on the situation. In this way, you practice Situational Leadership ®. Learn more about each conflict management style and when to use it below.
The accommodating style is perhaps the most straightforward. This style lets the person get their way with little to no pushback. Be accommodating when the issue is of little importance. This helps keep the peace when it’s something not worth fighting over. Do not be accommodating when the issue at the heart of the conflict is significant or can’t be ignored.
Example: An accommodating style would mean allowing David to eat a snack at his desk, even when no one else does. It’s a small matter that shouldn’t affect performance, so it should be fine to let it go in this case.
When two (or more) sides can’t outright “win” an argument, you often need to use the compromising style. Compromising doesn’t mean abandoning your principles, but it does show a willingness to find a solution all parties feel comfortable with . Using the compromising style is a great strategy when you need to reach a solution in a limited amount of time. Being compromising doesn’t always work for every conflict since no one gets all they want.
Example: If two employees each want to spend increased revenue on their respective departments, splitting that revenue equally between the two can act as an effective compromise. Both sides get a little of what they want, keeping everyone mostly happy.
Many people use the avoiding style as a way to evade workplace conflict. To protect themselves, they engage in behavior that avoids arguments, like changing the subject, not answering questions, or putting off the issue for another time.
When done inappropriately, avoidance can make conflicts worse . Only use this tactic to give both parties perspective on the issue. If neither side is seeking perspective, it will be ineffective.
Example: If Sam and Angela get into a heated argument over the company’s latest marketing strategy, pushing the deadline back a few days may help them cool down and reevaluate. The extra time may help them get a little perspective and not let their emotions drive their decisions.
The competing conflict management style is the opposite of accommodating and compromising. This style means not backing down in the slightest. You want to “win” the argument and won’t accept anything less than complete victory. The obvious downside to this is that it shuts down any discussion. As such, this style should only be used sparingly and for the most critical issues. When competing, leaders will defend their values and principles, not budging one inch in the face of opposition.
Example: If Stanley wants the company to sacrifice customer service for a better bottom line, shutting him down and refusing to consider it would be an example of the competing conflict management style. High-quality customer service is one value company leaders shouldn’t budge on.
As one of the most effective conflict management styles, collaborating gets everyone working together to find a resolution. Because everyone comes up with the solution as a team, no one feels like they lost something in the process. This strategy also helps a team grow together and build upon their relationships. While collaborating works well for long-term positive outcomes, it may not be the best approach when you have a tight deadline since it can take a lot of time. However, team members tend to prefer this management style when they have the time.
Example: Your team designs a new product that they worked together on by combining their ideas and creating something that everyone contributes to. The collaboration takes everyone’s strengths and uses them to produce a greater outcome than they could achieve individually.
Conflict management skills represent the strategies leaders use to minimize and resolve conflict. While many leaders understand the need for conflict management, these skills are how they can pull it off effectively. Mastering conflict management skills can take time and persistent practice. But with enough effort, it can transform places into positive work environments and build strong teams.
Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking. Bernard Baruch
To understand all sides of a conflict, you need to listen. When you fail to listen, you show everyone involved that you assume you know what is right. However, it really means that you are basing a decision on incomplete information.
Not listening makes other people feel small and worthless. It also shows a lack of emotional intelligence in the workplace . With this in mind, improving your listening skills should be a priority.
When managing conflict, take the time to hear all sides of an argument, including the side of a party that is not directly involved. This third part can provide a more objective point of view, free of emotionally charged thoughts. Act as the peacemaker as you seek everyone’s opinion. Above all, when you listen, search for the truth behind the matter .
2. Identifying Patterns Behind the Conflict
There are some people who always seem angry and continuously look for conflict. Walk away from these people. The battle they’re fighting isn’t with you, it’s with themselves. Rashida Rowe
If you find conflicts happening time and time again, chances are, some underlying issues are the main culprit. This holds true in professional as well as personal settings.
When constant conflicts rear their ugly heads, look for the patterns behind them. Start your search by asking the following questions:
- When was the last time this conflict occurred?
- What conditions caused it?
- Who was involved in the conflict?
- What did the parties say or do during the argument?
Asking these questions reveals specific patterns that create conflict. Only once you’ve identified these patterns will you be able to address them and make any necessary changes.
For example, during the course of the year, you might notice that some projects do well while others get bogged down as team members descend into squabbles. Upon closer examination, you discover that the projects that do poorly always have the same two people on the team. As it turns out, these two employees don’t get along, and their arguments end up bringing the whole team down. Once you’ve seen the pattern, you now know where to direct your attention.
3. Finding What Triggers Conflict
10 percent of conflict is due to the difference in opinion and 90 percent is due to the delivery and tone of voice. Unknown
Just because you recognize patterns doesn’t mean you’ve found the main cause of the conflict. Knowing the patterns will help you in your search to find what triggers those patterns. In other words, you need to find what made the conflict happen in the first place .
Going back to the previous example, why don’t those two employees get along? Does one of them constantly question the other’s authority? Are they on opposite sides of the political spectrum and can’t look past that when doing their work? Do they get annoyed with each other’s quirks and mannerisms?
As a leader, you need to get to the bottom of what emotional triggers set people off. Every employee is different, which means everyone will have a different trigger. For conflicts that keep happening, you need to find the source if you want it to stop.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t push the trigger. For example, if you have a sales manager who gets defensive and hostile when confronted with negative feedback, you may need to reevaluate the types of feedback you provide. You also need to get to the heart of the problem, which requires honest and open communication and a firm desire to discover the truth.
4. Talking It Out
The aim of argument and of discussion, should not be victory, but progress. Joseph Joubert
Knowing the heart of a problem allows you to have an honest discussion about it with the affected parties. If your sales manager has trouble taking criticism, it might be because he lacks self-confidence. For instance, maybe he was laid off from his previous job and believes any negative feedback is an indication he’s getting fired. Sitting down to talk with him can help clear up any misunderstandings and develop a better system that works for everyone.
If multiple people are involved in a conflict, you should first speak with each person individually to get their point of view. Encourage them to speak openly without fear of recrimination. Then get everyone in the room together so you can discuss the problem, share insight on why it happened, and provide a solution.
Brené Brown talks about this process in Dare to Lead . She calls these talks a rumble —“a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts . . . to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.” In a rumble, you can put your communication skills to use as you work with others to find a solution to the conflict.
5. Setting Boundaries
There are two ways of meeting difficulties: You alter the difficulties or you alter yourself meeting them. Phyllis Bottome
As you resolve the conflict, you have to make sure everyone understands the new standards. This happens in several steps.
- Explain the new rules of behavior.
- Provide boundaries they shouldn’t cross.
- Outline new expectations.
- Give them examples of what your expectations are in practice.
If two people don’t get along, a new rule of behavior would be respecting each other’s skills and authority when working together. A possible boundary might be not talking about non-work-related topics. Your established expectations might be having them perform well and no longer arguing. You can then provide examples of good performances free of conflict.
You don’t have to be the only one who sets boundaries. Encourage coworkers to set boundaries of their own. This is especially important if you are causing the conflict. For example, if you are driving an employee to constantly miss deadlines by assigning them to projects at the last minute, you must be willing to change your behavior. The only way people will be comfortable setting boundaries is by fostering open communication so they know they can safely share their feelings. Without this encouragement, resentment may fester over time.
Some conflicts may require extra help beyond having an open discussion. Human resources should be brought in when conflicts involve harassment, discrimination, or illegal and unethical activities. Don’t hesitate to address such issues, as they can ruin lives and destroy reputations.
At the core of conflict management must be the principles of servant leadership . Conflicts worsen when people become too concerned with being “right” or when they connect their identity with beliefs that make them unable to listen to others. However, servant leaders manage conflicts by showing humility. They look for answers because they believe they don’t have all of them.
As you practice conflict management, be humble enough to say to yourself, “I don’t know, but I’d love to hear what you think.” Be prepared to teach others to do the same. When you’re a servant leader, you truly care about your team and want the conflict resolved so everyone is happy.
Humble leadership also helps you build strong relationships within your team. A close team can disagree and have honest conversations that lead to better productivity. They value each other and want to resolve conflicts themselves because they care for one another.
One of the most important things you can do is teach conflict management styles and skills to your team right now . Doing so will minimize conflict at every level of the company because everyone will have the tools to handle conflict whenever it arises.
- SUGGESTED TOPICS
- The Magazine
- Managing Yourself
- Managing Teams
- Work-life Balance
- The Big Idea
- Data & Visuals
- Reading Lists
- Case Selections
- HBR Learning
- Topic Feeds
- Account Settings
- Email Preferences
The Conflict Resolution Skills Every Project Manager Needs
- Liane Davey
How to foster awareness, understanding, and respect for the different perspectives around the table.
It’s best to start any new project by fostering the right conflict mindset among team members. Productive conflict requires that all parties appreciate the competing demands and necessary trade-offs. But don’t expect stakeholders to show up with clarity about their position or empathy for the needs and demands of others. As a great project manager, you need to foster awareness, understanding, and respect for the different perspectives around the table. Your job is to harness the opposing forces and ensure that decisions are made with the benefit of diverse perspectives, the full knowledge of their impact, and the optimal trade-offs between various priorities. Fulfilling that responsibility will require that you embrace productive conflict and hone the associated skills.
When you’re new to project management, you might think the secret is to keep conflict to a minimum to ensure that your team completes tasks, meet deadlines, and avoids melees. Maybe you frame your role as the bridge-builder — the peacemaker. While that sounds good in theory, trying to keep everyone happy misses the point of effective project management.
- LD Liane Davey is a team effectiveness advisor and professional speaker . She is the author of The Good Fight , You First , and co-author of Leadership Solutions . Share your comments and questions with her on Twitter at @LianeDavey .
Managing Conflict with Humor
Improving emotional intelligence (eq), anger management.
- Empathy: How to Feel and Respond to the Emotions of Others
Nonverbal communication and body language.
- Gaslighting: Turning Off the Gas on Your Gaslighter
Setting Healthy Boundaries in Relationships
- Online Therapy: Is it Right for You?
- Mental Health
- Health & Wellness
- Children & Family
Are you or someone you know in crisis?
- Bipolar Disorder
- Eating Disorders
- Grief & Loss
- Personality Disorders
- PTSD & Trauma
- Therapy & Medication
- Exercise & Fitness
- Healthy Eating
- Well-being & Happiness
- Weight Loss
- Work & Career
- Illness & Disability
- Heart Health
- Childhood Issues
- Learning Disabilities
- Family Caregiving
- Teen Issues
- Emotional Intelligence
- Love & Friendship
- Domestic Abuse
- Healthy Aging
- Aging Issues
- Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia
- Senior Housing
- End of Life
- Healthy Living
- Aging in Place
- Meet Our Team
- Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.
- Harvard Health Partnership
- Audio Meditations
What is conflict?
Causes of conflict in a relationship, how do you respond to conflict, conflict resolution, stress, and emotions, core skill 1: quick stress relief, core skill 2: emotional awareness, nonverbal communication and conflict resolution, more tips for managing and resolving conflict, conflict resolution skills.
Whatever the cause of disagreements and disputes at home or work, these skills can help you resolve conflict in a constructive way and keep your relationships strong and growing.
Conflict is a normal part of any healthy relationship. After all, two people can’t be expected to agree on everything, all the time. The key is not to fear or try to avoid conflict but to learn how to resolve it in a healthy way.
When conflict is mismanaged, it can cause great harm to a relationship, but when handled in a respectful, positive way, conflict provides an opportunity to strengthen the bond between two people. Whether you’re experiencing conflict at home, work, or school, learning these skills can help you resolve differences in a healthy way and build stronger, more rewarding relationships.
- A conflict is more than just a disagreement. It is a situation in which one or both parties perceive a threat (whether or not the threat is real).
- Conflicts continue to fester when ignored. Because conflicts involve perceived threats to our well-being and survival, they stay with us until we face and resolve them.
- We respond to conflicts based on our perceptions of the situation, not necessarily to an objective review of the facts. Our perceptions are influenced by our life experiences, culture, values, and beliefs.
- Conflicts trigger strong emotions. If you aren't comfortable with your emotions or able to manage them in times of stress, you won't be able to resolve conflict successfully.
- Conflicts are an opportunity for growth. When you're able to resolve conflict in a relationship, it builds trust. You can feel secure knowing your relationship can survive challenges and disagreements.
Conflict arises from differences, both large and small. It occurs whenever people disagree over their values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, or desires. Sometimes these differences appear trivial, but when a conflict triggers strong feelings, a deep personal need is often at the core of the problem. These needs can range from the need to feel safe and secure or respected and valued, to the need for greater closeness and intimacy.
Think about the opposing needs of a toddler and a parent. The child’s need is to explore, so venturing to the street or the cliff edge meets that need. But the parent's need is to protect the child’s safety, a need that can only be met by limiting the toddler’s exploration. Since these needs are at odds, conflict arises.
The needs of each party play an important role in the long-term success of a relationship. Each deserves respect and consideration. In personal relationships, a lack of understanding about differing needs can result in distance, arguments, and break-ups. In the workplace, differing needs can result in broken deals, decreased profits, and lost jobs.
[Read: Tips for Building a Healthy Relationship]
When you can recognize conflicting needs and are willing to examine them with compassion and understanding, it can lead to creative problem solving, team building, and stronger relationships.
Speak to a Licensed Therapist
Do you fear conflict or avoid it at all costs? If your perception of conflict comes from painful memories from early childhood or previous unhealthy relationships, you may expect all disagreements to end badly. You may view conflict as demoralizing, humiliating, or something to fear. If your early life experiences left you feeling powerless or out of control, conflict may even be traumatizing for you.
If you're afraid of conflict, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you enter a conflict situation already feeling threatened, it's tough to deal with the problem at hand in a healthy way. Instead, you're more likely to either shut down or blow up in anger.
Conflict triggers strong emotions and can lead to hurt feelings, disappointment, and discomfort. When handled in an unhealthy manner, it can cause irreparable rifts, resentments, and break-ups. But when conflict is resolved in a healthy way, it increases your understanding of the other person, builds trust, and strengthens your relationships.
If you are out of touch with your feelings or so stressed that you can only pay attention to a limited number of emotions, you won't be able to understand your own needs. This will make it hard to communicate with others and establish what's really troubling you. For example, couples often argue about petty differences—the way she hangs the towels, the way he slurps his soup—rather than what is really bothering them.
The ability to successfully resolve conflict depends on your ability to:
- Manage stress quickly while remaining alert and calm. By staying calm, you can accurately read and interpret verbal and nonverbal communication.
- Control your emotions and behavior. When you're in control of your emotions, you can communicate your needs without threatening, intimidating, or punishing others.
- Pay attention to the feelings being expressed as well as the spoken words of others.
- Be aware of and respect differences. By avoiding disrespectful words and actions, you can almost always resolve a problem faster.
To successfully resolve a conflict, you need to learn and practice two core skills:
- Quick stress relief: the ability to quickly relieve stress in the moment.
- Emotional awareness: the ability to remain comfortable enough with your emotions to react in constructive ways, even in the midst of a perceived attack.
- Ritual offers online counseling, practical tools, and proven interventions to help you heal and strengthen your relationships and improve your communication skills.
Being able to manage and relieve stress in the moment is the key to staying balanced, focused, and in control, no matter what challenges you face. If you don't know how to stay centered and in control of yourself, you will become overwhelmed in conflict situations and unable to respond in healthy ways.
Psychologist Connie Lillas uses a driving analogy to describe the three most common ways people respond when they're overwhelmed by stress:
Foot on the gas. An angry or agitated stress response. You're heated, keyed up, overly emotional, and unable to sit still.
Foot on the brake. A withdrawn or depressed stress response. You shut down, space out, and show very little energy or emotion.
Foot on both gas and brake. A tense and frozen stress response. You “freeze” under pressure and can't do anything. You look paralyzed, but under the surface you're extremely agitated.
How stress affects conflict resolution
Stress interferes with the ability to resolve conflict by limiting your ability to:
- Accurately read another person's body language .
- Hear what someone is really saying.
- Be aware of your own feelings.
- Be in touch with your own, deep-rooted needs.
- Communicate your needs clearly.
Is stress a problem for you?
You may be so used to feeling stressed that you're not even aware you are stressed. Stress may pose a problem in your life if you identify with the following:
- You often feel tense or tight somewhere in your body.
- You're not aware of movement in your chest or stomach when you breathe.
- Conflict absorbs your time and attention.
Learn how to manage stress in the moment
One of the most reliable ways to rapidly reduce stress is by engaging one or more of your senses—sight, sound, taste, smell, touch—or through movement. You could squeeze a stress ball, smell a relaxing scent, taste a soothing cup of tea, or look at a treasured photograph. We all tend to respond differently to sensory input, often depending on how we respond to stress, so take some time to find things that are soothing to you. Read: Quick Stress Relief .
Emotional awareness is the key to understanding yourself and others. If you don't know how or why you feel a certain way, you won't be able to communicate effectively or resolve disagreements.
[Read: Improving Emotional Intelligence]
Although knowing your own feelings may sound simple, many people ignore or try to sedate strong emotions like anger, sadness, and fear. Your ability to handle conflict, however, depends on being connected to these feelings. If you're afraid of strong emotions or if you insist on finding solutions that are strictly rational, your ability to face and resolve differences will be limited.
Why emotional awareness is a key factor in resolving conflict
Emotional awareness—the consciousness of your moment-to-moment emotional experience—and the ability to manage all of your feelings appropriately, is the basis of a communication process that can resolve conflict.
Emotional awareness helps you to:
- Understand what is really troubling other people
- Understand yourself, including what is really troubling you
- Stay motivated until the conflict is resolved
- Communicate clearly and effectively
- Interest and influence others
Assessing your level of emotional awareness
The following quiz helps you assess your level of emotional awareness. Answer the following questions with: almost never, occasionally, often, very often, or almost always . There are no right or wrong responses, only the opportunity to become better acquainted with your emotional responses.
What kind of relationship do you have with your emotions?
- Do you experience feelings that flow, encountering one emotion after another as your experiences change from moment to moment?
- Are your emotions accompanied by physical sensations that you experience in places like your stomach or chest?
- Do you experience distinct feelings and emotions, such as anger, sadness, fear, and joy, which are evident in different facial expressions?
- Can you experience intense feelings that are strong enough to capture both your own attention and that of others?
- Do you pay attention to your emotions? Do they factor into your decision-making?
If any of these experiences are unfamiliar, your emotions may be “turned” down or even off. In either case, you may need help developing your emotional awareness. You can do this by using Helpguide's free Emotional Intelligence Toolkit.
When people are in the middle of a conflict, the words they use rarely convey the issues at the heart of the problem. But by paying close attention to the other person's nonverbal signals or “body language,” such as facial expressions, posture, gestures, and tone of voice, you can better understand what the person is really saying. This will allow you to respond in a way that builds trust, and gets to the root of the problem.
[Read: Nonverbal Communication and Body Language]
Your ability to accurately read another person depends on your own emotional awareness. The more aware you are of your own emotions, the easier it will be for you to pick up on the wordless clues that reveal what others are feeling. Think about what you are transmitting to others during conflict, and if what you say matches your body language. If you say “I'm fine,” but you clench your teeth and look away, then your body is clearly signaling you are anything but “fine.” A calm tone of voice, a reassuring touch, or an interested facial expression can go a long way toward relaxing a tense exchange.
You can ensure that the process of managing and resolving conflict is as positive as possible by sticking to the following guidelines:
Listen for what is felt as well as said. When you really listen, you connect more deeply to your own needs and emotions, and to those of other people. Listening also strengthens, informs, and makes it easier for others to hear you when it's your turn to speak.
Make conflict resolution the priority rather than winning or “being right.” Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority. Be respectful of the other person and their viewpoint.
Focus on the present. If you're holding on to grudges based on past conflicts, your ability to see the reality of the current situation will be impaired. Rather than looking to the past and assigning blame, focus on what you can do in the here-and-now to solve the problem.
Pick your battles. Conflicts can be draining, so it's important to consider whether the issue is really worth your time and energy. Maybe you don't want to surrender a parking space if you've been circling for 15 minutes, but if there are dozens of empty spots, arguing over a single space isn't worth it.
Be willing to forgive. Resolving conflict is impossible if you're unwilling or unable to forgive others. Resolution lies in releasing the urge to punish, which can serve only to deplete and drain your life.
Know when to let something go. If you can't come to an agreement, agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument going. If a conflict is going nowhere, you can choose to disengage and move on.
Using humor in conflict resolution
You can avoid many confrontations and resolve arguments and disagreements by communicating in a humorous way . Humor can help you say things that might otherwise be difficult to express without offending someone. However, it's important that you laugh with the other person, not at them. When humor and play are used to reduce tension and anger, reframe problems, and put the situation into perspective, the conflict can actually become an opportunity for greater connection and intimacy.
- CR Kit - Covers causes of conflict, different conflict styles, and fair fighting guidelines to help you positively resolve disagreements. (Conflict Resolution Network)
- 12 Skills Summary - A 12-step conflict resolution training kit. (Conflict Resolution Network)
- Effective Communication - The art of listening in conflict resolution. (University of Maryland)
- 10.3 Causes and Outcomes of Conflict – Organizational Behavior . (n.d.). Retrieved May 25, 2022, from Link
- Başoğul, C., & Özgür, G. (2016). Role of Emotional Intelligence in Conflict Management Strategies of Nurses. Asian Nursing Research , 10(3), 228–233. Link
- Corcoran, Kathleen O’Connell, and Brent Mallinckrodt. “Adult Attachment, Self-Efficacy, Perspective Taking, and Conflict Resolution.” Journal of Counseling & Development 78, no. 4 (2000): 473–83. Link
- Yarnell, Lisa M., and Kristin D. Neff. “Self-Compassion, Interpersonal Conflict Resolutions, and Well-Being.” Self and Identity 12, no. 2 (March 1, 2013): 146–59. Link
- Tucker, Corinna Jenkins, Susan M. Mchale, and Ann C. Crouter. “Conflict Resolution: Links with Adolescents’ Family Relationships and Individual Well-Being.” Journal of Family Issues 24, no. 6 (September 1, 2003): 715–36. Link
More in Communication
Using laughter and play to resolve disagreements
Boost your emotional intelligence to help you be happy and successful
Tips and techniques for getting anger under control
How to feel and respond to the emotions of others
Tips to avoid conflict and improve work and personal relationships
How to read body language to build better relationships at home and work
Turning Off the Gas on Your Gaslighter
5 ways to deal with gaslighting
Strengthen your connections and improve your self-esteem
Professional therapy, done online
BetterHelp makes starting therapy easy. Take the assessment and get matched with a professional, licensed therapist.
Help us help others
Millions of readers rely on HelpGuide.org for free, evidence-based resources to understand and navigate mental health challenges. Please donate today to help us save, support, and change lives.
10 Skills for Conflict Resolution in Teams and How to Build them?
What is conflict resolution, what are the essential skills for conflict resolution, why do leaders need conflict resolution skills, skills for conflict resolution in the workplace, skills for conflict resolution examples, how to improve conflict resolution skills, conflict resolution skills faqs.
Other Related Blogs
- 7 Easy Steps To Make A Work From Home Routine For Boosting Productivity
- Mastering the Mindset Game: Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset
- 5 Proven Ways Managers can Build Collaboration in a Team
- How To Make Learning Exciting With Gamification In eLearning: With 4 Examples
- 6 Reasons why Remote Work Trend is not going away any time soon
- Training for Small Businesses: Effective Ways and Solid Tips
- Internal Mobility Mastery: Best Practices to Drive Growth and Success
- Coaching Employee with Negative Attitude to turn them around in 5 easy steps
- Finding Success with the Golden Circle: 5 Examples and Free Template
- How To Lead By Example: 5 Effective Ways For Managers
Self-awareness, team awareness.
- Active Listening: A manager is in a meeting with a team member who is expressing frustration over a new project. The manager uses active listening skills to fully understand the team member’s concerns by asking clarifying questions, paraphrasing and showing empathy.
- Problem-Solving: A manager is trying to resolve a conflict between two departments over the use of a shared resource. The manager uses problem-solving skills to identify the root cause of the conflict, generate potential solutions, and evaluate the pros and cons of each option.
- Negotiation: A manager is trying to resolve a conflict between a customer and a sales representative over a product issue. The manager uses negotiation skills to find a compromise that satisfies both parties by identifying the underlying interests of each party and proposing a win-win solution.
- Observation and team awareness: A manager notices that there is a lot of tension and disagreements among the team members. The manager finds out that the team members are not aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which is causing confusion and misunderstandings. The manager facilitates team-building activities to help team members understand and appreciate each other’s skills and work styles. As a result, the team members start to communicate more effectively, and conflicts are reduced.
- Develop Self-Awareness: Reflect on your triggers, biases, and emotional responses to conflicts. Understand your communication style and how it might affect conflict dynamics.
- Stay Calm: Maintain emotional control during conflicts. Take deep breaths and practice relaxation techniques to prevent emotional reactions from escalating.
- Seek Common Ground: Identify shared goals or interests that both parties can agree on. Finding common ground can provide a foundation for resolving differences.
- Focus on Solutions: Shift the focus from blame to finding solutions. Collaboratively brainstorm possible resolutions that address the core issues.
- Effective Communication: Use “I” statements to express your feelings and perspective without accusing others. Be clear and specific in your communication to avoid misunderstandings.
- Empathy and Perspective-Taking: Put yourself in the shoes of the other party. Understand their feelings and motivations to show genuine empathy.
- Timing: Choose the right time and place for discussions. Avoid addressing conflicts when tensions are high or during busy periods.
Download the free conflict management toolkit for rising managers now!
Uncover the secrets of handling conflicts like a pro in your team.
What is basic conflict resolution?
How do you handle conflict, how to avoid conflict, what is conflict prevention.
Be a Star Sales Manager: Top 6 Skills needed and ways to enhance them
Top 15 tips for effective conflict mediation at work, top 15 ways of improving influence and negotiation skills, 10+ tips on how to use employee personas for better management.