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Navigating Business Conflict

A Manager's Guide to Resolution

In the dynamic landscape of business, conflicts are inevitable. Whether they arise from different opinions, resource allocation, or organisational changes, they can disrupt productivity and weaken relationships within teams. However, conflicts do not have to be harmful; they present opportunities for growth and innovation when managed effectively.

As a manager, understanding the nuances of conflict management is crucial.

Fundamentals as a Manager in Conflict Situations

The first step is to recognise the signs of conflict early on. This requires:
  • Active listening and observation to identify underlying tensions or discrepancies in communication, understand the root causes of conflicts before formulating solutions.
  • Addressing issues proactively, thereby preventing conflicts from escalating into something larger and thus strengthening team dynamics that promote a positive work environment where individuals feel valued and empowered.
One of the key strategies in conflict management is fostering open communication1:
  • Encouraging team members to express their concerns and perspectives in a safe environment promotes transparency and trust2.
  • Embracing diversity in thought and approach can lead to richer discussions and better outcomes. Recognising the value of different perspectives cultivates a culture of inclusivity and collaboration within teams. By leveraging the unique strengths of each team member, managers can find creative solutions to complex challenges.

What Specific Steps to Take at Different Stages

1. Preventing Conflicts:
  • Foster a Positive Team Culture: Create a supportive and inclusive environment where team members feel valued and respected. Encourage open communication, collaboration, and mutual respect.
  • Set Clear Expectations: Define roles, responsibilities, and goals clearly to minimise ambiguity and reduce potential sources of conflict arising from misunderstandings or conflicting priorities.
  • Promote Team Activities: Organise team activities and exercises to strengthen relationships and promote trust among team members. Encourage team bonding both inside and outside of the workplace.
  • Address Issues Early: Proactively address any signs of tension or disagreement among team members. Encourage open dialogue and provide a platform for individuals to express their concerns before conflicts escalate.
2. Handling Conflicts:
  • Actively Listen: When conflicts arise, listen attentively to all parties involved without judgement. Allow each person to express their perspectives and concerns fully before offering solutions.
  • Remain Neutral: Maintain impartial and avoid taking sides in conflicts. Focus on facilitating constructive dialogue and finding common ground rather than assigning blame or making judgements.
  • Identify Root Causes: Dig deep to understand the underlying reasons behind the conflict. Consider factors such as miscommunication, different expectations, or personality clashes that may be contributing to the disagreement.
  • Collaborative Problem-Solving: Encourage collaborative problem-solving approaches where team members work together to find mutually acceptable solutions. Brainstorm alternative options and encourage compromise when necessary.
3. Resolving Conflicts:
  • Choose the Right Approach: Select appropriate conflict resolution techniques (see section: Conflict Resolution Techniques) based on the nature and severity of the conflict. Options include negotiation, mediation, or facilitation, depending on the situation and the preferences of the parties involved.
  • Communicate Effectively: Clearly communicate the agreed-upon solutions and any changes in expectations or responsibilities resulting from the resolution. Ensure that all team members understand their roles in implementing the resolution and follow up as needed.
  • Monitor Progress: Keep track of the resolution process and monitor for any signs of recurring conflicts or unresolved issues. Address any lingering concerns promptly and revisit the resolution if necessary to ensure long-term effectiveness.
  • Learn from the Experience: After resolving conflicts, take the opportunity to reflect on the experience and identify lessons learned. Use feedback from the conflict resolution process to inform future strategies for preventing and managing conflicts within the team. Suggestions for apps to receive feedback from:
    • Paid version: 15Five
      A performance management software. After conflict resolution, you can use 15Five to solicit feedback from team members on the effectiveness of the resolution process and outcomes. The platform provides analytics and reporting features to help you track progress over time and identify areas for improvement.
    • Free version: Google Forms
      Free tool included with Google Workspace that enables users to create surveys and questionnaires. Responses are automatically collected in a Google Sheets spreadsheet for easy analysis and tracking.
    • Free version: Typeform
      Free plan with limited features, including basic survey creation and response collection. Yet, it provides robust customisation options for creating engaging and interactive surveys.

Conflict Resolution Techniques

Here are some of the most effective methods that can be applied.

  • On-the-Job Training and Workshops: Conducting on-the-job training sessions and workshops on conflict resolution specifically designed for white and blue-collar workers respectively, can be highly beneficial. These sessions can focus on practical strategies for resolving conflicts that are relevant to their work environment and daily interactions. Using relatable examples and hands-on exercises can help reinforce learning and empower workers to apply conflict resolution techniques effectively.
  • Development and Training: Providing development and training opportunities for managers and team leaders on effective conflict resolution techniques. Managers who are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge can intervene early to address conflicts before they escalate. Training should focus on active listening, empathy, and de-escalation strategies that are relevant to the specific challenges faced by white or blue-collar workers.
  • Mediation and Facilitation: In situations where conflicts are complex or deeply entrenched, engaging a neutral third-party mediator or facilitator can be beneficial. Mediators are trained professionals who can help parties in conflict explore underlying issues, communicate effectively, and generate options for resolution. By maintaining neutrality and impartiality, mediators create a safe space for constructive dialogue and problem-solving. Facilitators, on the other hand, guide discussions and ensure that all voices are heard, helping parties navigate towards a resolution collaboratively. This technique is particularly useful in resolving conflicts between individuals or teams where emotions are high, and communication has broken down.
  • Utilise Visual Communication Tools: Utilising visual communication tools such as posters, diagrams, or videos can be highly effective in conveying conflict resolution concepts and techniques. Visual aids can help ensure that important information is accessible to all workers and facilitate understanding and retention of key concepts.


Ultimately, the goal of conflict management is to foster a culture of respect and collaboration within the organisation.


  • Jehn, K. A. (2017). Managing Conflict: How to Make It Work for You and Your Organisation. SAGE Publications.
  • De Dreu, C. K., & Gelfand, M. J. (Eds.). (2018). The Psychology of Conflict and Conflict Management in Organisations. Routledge.
  • Tjosvold, D., & Leung, K. (2019). Managerial Conflict Resolution. Routledge.
  • Behfar, K. J., Peterson, R. S., Mannix, E. A., & Trochim, W. M. (2011). The Critical Role of Conflict Resolution in Teams: A Close Look at the Links Between Conflict Type, Conflict Management Strategies, and Team Outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(5), 853–866.
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