Corporate Governance, Management and Leadership

Grievance Management: Why managers need to learn the art of conflict resolution

Group of colleagues arguing - Conflict resolution in the workplace"

What is conflict resolution?

Conflict resolution in the workplace refers to the process of addressing and resolving disagreements or conflicts among employees either through open communication and active listening or the use of mediation and facilitation when necessary.

Examples of conflict in the workplace

Conflicts in the workplace can arise from various sources and take different forms. Here are some real-life examples of workplace conflicts:

  1. Interpersonal Conflict

Example: Sarah and John, two team members, constantly clash during team meetings. They have different work styles and often criticize each other’s ideas, creating tension and hindering collaboration.

  • Resolution Approach: The manager can schedule a private meeting with Sarah and John to address the conflict. They can encourage both individuals to share their perspectives, actively listen to each other, and find common ground. The manager may also facilitate a team-building activity to improve communication and foster mutual understanding.
  1. Role Conflict

Example: In a small startup, Emma and Mark have overlapping job responsibilities, resulting in confusion and frequent conflicts about task ownership. This situation leads to delays and inefficiencies.

  • Resolution Approach: The manager can clarify roles and responsibilities by clearly defining job descriptions for Emma and Mark. By establishing boundaries and providing clarity on individual areas of responsibility, the manager can reduce ambiguity and promote a smoother workflow. Regular check-ins and open communication channels can help resolve any remaining conflicts.
  1. Communication Breakdown

Example: Jessica and David work remotely in different time zones. Due to poor communication practices, important project updates and deadlines are frequently missed, causing frustration and delays.

  • Resolution Approach: The manager can implement clear communication protocols and tools, such as regular virtual meetings, project management software, and shared calendars. The team can establish specific communication guidelines, such as providing timely updates, using a common messaging platform, and setting expectations for response times. This proactive approach enhances communication efficiency, reduces misunderstandings, and resolves conflicts stemming from communication breakdowns.

How to resolve conflict in the workplace as a manager

  1. Address the Conflict Promptly

 Deal with conflicts as soon as they arise to prevent them from escalating further and affecting the work environment.

  1. Gather Information

 Listen to all parties involved and gather information about the conflict. Understand their perspectives, concerns, and underlying issues.

  1. Foster Open Communication

 Encourage open and respectful communication among the employees involved. Create a safe space for them to express their thoughts and feelings.

  1. Facilitate Mediation

 If necessary, act as a mediator or involve a neutral third party to facilitate productive discussions and guide the resolution process.

  1. Seek Common Ground

 Identify areas of agreement and shared interests between the parties involved. Focus on finding solutions that benefit both sides.

  1. Encourage Collaboration

Promote teamwork and collaboration to find mutually beneficial solutions. Encourage employees to work together towards a resolution.

  1. Provide Support:

Offer guidance, resources, or training to help employees develop conflict resolution skills and improve their communication abilities.

  1. Document and Follow-Up

 Keep records of the conflict resolution process, including agreements or action plans. Follow up with the involved parties to ensure the resolution is implemented effectively.

  1. Address Underlying Issues

 Assess if there are underlying issues contributing to the conflict, such as workload, role clarity, or communication gaps. Take steps to address these root causes.

  1. Lead by Example

 Model positive conflict resolution behaviors and promote a culture of respect, open communication, and collaboration within your team.

How can organizations ensure managers have good conflict resolution skills?

Conflict resolution skills are learnt in as much as they are developed. Organizations can do the following to ensure managers have the right skills for conflict management:

  1. Training and Development

Provide comprehensive training programs that focus on conflict resolution techniques, communication skills, active listening, and mediation. These programs can equip managers with the necessary tools and strategies to effectively handle conflicts.

  1. Coaching and Mentoring

 Offer one-on-one coaching or mentoring to managers, specifically addressing conflict resolution skills. This can involve providing guidance, feedback, and support in real-life conflict scenarios.

  1. Role Modeling

Encourage senior leaders and executives to exhibit strong conflict resolution skills as a role model for managers. When leaders consistently demonstrate effective conflict resolution, it sets a positive example and encourages managers to emulate those behaviors.

  1. Feedback and Performance Management

 Include conflict resolution skills as part of the performance evaluation process for managers. Provide regular feedback on their conflict resolution abilities and identify areas for improvement.

  1. Peer Learning and Collaboration

 Foster a culture of learning and collaboration among managers. Encourage them to share their experiences, exchange best practices, and learn from one another’s successes and challenges in resolving conflicts.

  1. Clear Policies and Procedures

Establish clear policies and procedures for addressing conflicts within the organization. Ensure that managers are familiar with these guidelines and are trained on how to navigate conflict resolution processes effectively.

  1. Continuous Improvement and Evaluation

 Regularly assess and evaluate managers’ conflict resolution skills through surveys, feedback sessions, or 360-degree assessments. Use the insights gained to identify areas for improvement and implement targeted development plans.

  1. Supportive Environment

 Create a supportive work environment where managers feel comfortable seeking guidance and support when facing challenging conflicts. Encourage open dialogue and provide resources or tools that facilitate effective conflict resolution.

By prioritizing the development and reinforcement of conflict resolution skills among managers, organizations can foster a healthier work environment, enhance employee satisfaction, and improve overall organizational performance.


As the saying goes “People don’t leave bad jobs. They leave bad bosses” highlights the crucial role that managers play in employee satisfaction and retention.

Conflict resolution skills are essential for managers to prevent and address conflicts that may arise between employees and themselves or among team members. Effective conflict resolution by managers involves creating a supportive and respectful work environment, actively listening to employee concerns, facilitating open communication, and finding fair and mutually beneficial solutions. When managers fail to address conflicts or exhibit poor conflict resolution skills, it can lead to employee frustration, dissatisfaction, and ultimately, employees leaving the organization in search of better leadership and a healthier work environment.

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