Resolving Conflict in the Workplace

Conflicts occur in the workplace every day. It is inevitable, yet the approach on how people work out differences and reach an amicable conclusion is determined by the approach taken. On the other hand, unresolved conflicts can have a negative impact on the entire workplace. When there is high turnover, absenteeism, and poor productivity, it draws the business down; therefore, it is important to ensure that these types of problems are handled with care. Positive outcomes from resolving disputes in the workplace are instrumental to ensuring team members can work past differences, and learn from disagreements to avoid future misunderstandings.


Conflict occurs when two or more people have a difference of opinion in policies or procedures, including personality conflicts, difficulties in cooperating with others, management decisions, and individual rights disputes (DuBrin, 2015). Disputes lead to conflicts, whether they are related to work, and unless there is a joint effort, resolution will be difficult to achieve. The more understanding you can get from wrong choices or harmful behaviors; the more people can choose more effective countermeasures to achieve a friendly solution.

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Conflict can be effectively managed when the causes are identified, and successful approaches to deal with it are put into place. The worst-case scenario is for people to admit or withdraw from handling disputes, which may escalate emotions and cause further damage or harm. Practical approaches to resolving conflict include cooperative problem-solving, the ability to work together, placing importance on the relationship, and creative solutions.

There may be value in conflict, especially when it can introduce a change to enhance the relationship.

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The realism of conflict initiates resourcefulness and innovation, clarifies ambiguity and misconceptions, develops employee engagement, builds loyalty, thus yielding cohesiveness and raising employee morale (Gilin et al., 2015). Conflicts can be considered disparaging if change is unlikely, or harmful, diverts energy from more important issues, is disruptive or damaging to morale.

Understanding conflict, and the damage it can do in the workplace if left unchecked, can affect the bottom line of profit and growth for the business. According to CPP Global, employees allocate over two hours a week in an attempt to resolve conflict, which is equivalent to a loss of $359 billion every year for companies in the United States (Workplace Conflict, 2008). Loss of productivity and income, high turnover and low morale, and resource loss or asset transfer from management conflicts will cause such losses (Gilin et al., 2015). Since conflict is inevitable, it would be prudent to capitalize and redirect the elements of conflict to focus on healthy outcomes by converging on the differences of opinion and redirecting the efforts for gain.

Resolving Conflict

The key to resolving conflict is to be flexible to the set of circumstances presented in opposition, and focus on the best approach to the situation. The more adaptable and open when addressing conflict, the more effective the tactic will be in dealing with the circumstances. There are different approaches that can be taken when dealing with conflict:

  • Collaborative – manager works with the people to develop a win-win situation that meets everyone needs (DuBrin, 2015).
  • Compromising – each person gives up something in exchange for an amicable resolution (DuBrin, 2015).
  • Competing – the determination is made on a steadfast opinion, and is usually best when a quick decision needs to be made (DuBrin, 2015).
  • Accommodating – one person concedes to the other, and this approach may not solve the problem (DuBrin, 2015).
  • Avoidance – decisions are accepted without question, and could cause the conflict to escalate if not addressed (DuBrin, 2015).

Conflict resolution is best accomplished through collaboration or compromise; however, understanding the situation and the people involved will be the best approach. The goal is to find solutions that are mutually beneficial to everyone, including putting the interests of the company and its employees first. Keeping an open mind, and the recognition that there is more than one way to respect issues extends the belief that there can be a solution to the problem. If there is allegiance to stay connected through communication, then trust and respect become the foundation for quality interaction.

This foundation is the premise for a past incident I experienced in the workplace with another supervisor. The Quality Assurance Manager displayed behavior and actions of being a micromanager who needed to ensure that she controlled the results of every assignment given to her staff. Her demeanor was often overbearing and controlling, and she created stress in the environment of everyone she worked with. She was often moody, and would allow outside influences to affect her attitude when she worked with her peers. This supervisor lacked self-esteem, and rather than allowing the individuality of her team members, her interest in delegation always included appealing her own self-interest into tasks by wanting to achieve results as a controlled effort. Very often, her style came across as a dictation of a list of instructions that involved little to no collaboration, but simply adhering to her order and directives.

The demeanor and workstyle resulted in high turnover in her department, and poor attendance and performance were key indicators that the department was not functioning well. Often, employees would avoid addressing concerns, as they were intimidated by the level of conflict she would project into the group. The supervisor’s disposition was a bully, and her tactics of using fear and intimidation impacted the morale of anyone who came in contact with her.

Because the level of her conflict involved various team members in the organization, the best way to deal with the situation was to introduce the styles of compromise, adaptation, and competition in response to alleviating concerns. With collaboration of key leadership and human resources, the team members were allowed to state their concerns, and discuss how they felt working in the department. Open-ended questions were asked, and it was a good start for allowing team members to express their thoughts. The tone was set to respect and listen to the perceptions and points of view of everyone as a means to diffuse emotions, establish real problems, and reframe the issues by depersonalizing the discord to create solutions to enhance working relationships and build cohesiveness.

The compromise style consisted of making the supervisor aware of her need to be more of an active listener, and allow the expertise and knowledge of her team members to lead the way for accountability and responsibility of assigned tasks. She was reminded that her proficiency and leadership would be instrumental for the overall capacity of the department, thereby allowing her more time and energy to focus on management level decisions. The redistribution of her efforts would have a greater impact on the business operations by redirecting her attention to meet increasing manufacturing demands.

Using the accommodation style of conflict resolution, the department was allowed to implement goal and accomplishment outlines to provide daily recaps for the supervisor to review and stay abreast of key performance indicators. Weekly summaries were provided to the supervisor to allow her the time to attend and participate in meetings uninterrupted, and still maintain data close on hand to disseminate to other leaders in the organization. In addition, the management instruction to team members was the level of concern at an emergency level would be brought immediately to her attention; thereby, avoiding any potential burden about the safety or integrity of the operation.

Finally, a competitive style was put down by key leadership. The supervisor suggested that she was hired into her position because she was good at her job, and it was not her responsibility to make the others around her better. The supervisor was reminded that her level of position was to lead and delegate the department, and to avoid micromanaging to the point where she was not holding her employees accountable or responsible for the quality of their work. The level of interference she was causing was creating instability and uncertainty in the department, leading to complaints and job dissatisfaction. The supervisor was instructed to have bi-weekly meetings with senior leadership and human resources to continue developing her listening and delegating responsibilities to help keep the department engaged for the change in her leadership style. The reins of eccentricity, and the need to be an effective leader, were instrumental to the success of the department. Their ability to come to her for direction required her to be less condescending and more decisive as a leader and a communicator.

The end result is a positive solution to enhance interaction, and connections are established because everyone is determined to work together. The team members built an environment where value for experience and contribution was recognized as a component for mutual success. The department is still learning to respect differences and perspectives, and they are being more diligent on identifying points of their disagreement by prioritizing areas of conflict. Although human resources may periodically need to intervene, they are building on improving the department’s success as being cohesive and collaborative. This is a fundamental quality to have in order for the department to be recognized as connected and organized to their area of quality.


To be successful in your career, regardless of your position, understanding and resolving conflict is essential. Conflict resolution takes time, it takes commitment, and it allows for constructive change to happen. When differences are discussed, and people can work through them together, the foundation is positively set. Although the easy way out may be to ignore it, or turn the other way, avoiding is destructive to building relationships. Conflict resolution leads to facilitating goal achievement as it helps develop skills such as collaboration, negotiation, and compromise, which are all areas that are useful in both personal and professional endeavors. Finally, conflict resolution leads to the skill of commitment because it helps unify a responsibility to face problems and deal with challenges, and mentality changes from “I” or “me” to “we” or “us” and leads to an attitude of approach and the perception being flexible and open to change.

Updated: Aug 06, 2021
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Resolving Conflict in the Workplace. (2021, Aug 06). Retrieved from

Resolving Conflict in the Workplace essay
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