How to Handle Conflict at Work: A Guide for Managers

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What is Conflict at Work and How Can it be Managed?

Conflict at work is an unavoidable part of any workplace. It occurs when two or more employees have opposing views or objectives, or when communication breaks down. Conflict can range from minor disagreements to more serious issues such as bullying or harassment, and can have a negative effect on productivity, team morale and the overall working environment. We explore how to handle conflict at work.

It is therefore important for managers to be aware of how to handle situations of conflict in the workplace, as it can be detrimental to the organisation if left unchecked.


The first step in managing conflict at work is to identify the source of the problem. This can be done by observing the behaviour of those involved, and by talking to each party individually to understand their grievances. Once the root cause of the conflict has been identified, it is important for managers to find a way to resolve the dispute in a timely and effective manner.

One of the most common methods of managing conflict is to facilitate a discussion between the parties involved. This should be done in a neutral environment, such as a meeting room, and should be led by a neutral third party. During the discussion, it is important to ensure that all parties are given an equal opportunity to express their views and to be heard.

It is also important to ensure that the discussion remains focused on resolving the issue rather than simply airing grievances. Once the issue has been discussed, it is important to come up with an actionable plan which both parties are in agreement with.

Another effective way to manage conflict is to use mediation. This involves having a third party, such as a professional mediator, help the parties involved come to an agreement. The mediator will help the parties understand one another’s points of view, and will help them come to an amicable solution.

In some cases, it may be necessary to take disciplinary action in order to resolve a situation of conflict. This should always be done in accordance with the company’s policies and procedures, and should only be used as a last resort.

By being aware of the causes of conflict at work and having strategies in place to manage it effectively, managers can ensure that the workplace remains a healthy and productive environment for all employees.

Understanding the Causes of Conflict in the Workplace

Conflict in the workplace can be a major source of stress and disharmony. In order to effectively manage conflict, it is important to understand the underlying causes of conflict in the workplace. When managers are aware of the common causes of conflict, they are better able to take proactive steps to prevent it from occurring in the first place.

The most common causes of conflict in the workplace include:

  • Poor communication: Misunderstandings due to a lack of clear communication can lead to disagreements and arguments between co-workers.
  • Misalignment of goals: When the goals of two people or teams are misaligned, there can be a clash of interests and a resulting conflict.
  • Personality clashes: When two people have different personalities, their styles of working and communication can lead to conflict.
  • Unclear roles and responsibilities: When roles and responsibilities are not clearly defined, it can lead to confusion and conflict.
  • Unfair treatment: When employees feel that they are not being treated fairly, it can cause resentment and lead to conflict.
  • Lack of trust: When people don’t trust each other, there can be a lack of cooperation, which can lead to conflict.
  • Power imbalances: When one person or team holds more power than another, it can lead to feelings of resentment which can cause conflict.
  • Stress: When people are under a lot of stress, their tempers can be short and they can become more prone to conflict.

By understanding the common causes of conflict in the workplace, managers can take proactive steps to prevent it from occurring in the first place. This includes encouraging open communication, making sure roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, treating employees fairly, and creating a trusting work environment. Mental health training can also be beneficial, as it can help employees to better manage their stress levels and be more aware of potential sources of conflict.

Identifying Conflict and Responding Appropriately

Managers are often tasked with handling conflict within the workplace. To do this effectively, it is important to be able to identify conflicts before they escalate and then take appropriate steps to address them. Here are some tips for identifying and responding to workplace conflicts:

Listen to Employees: Employees often sense tension before it is visible, so it is important to listen to their concerns. Pay attention to any changes in the attitude or behaviour of employees and be sure to ask questions to gain further insight.

Observe Workplace Dynamics: It is important to observe the dynamics between employees and how they interact with each other. Pay attention to body language, tone of voice, and any changes in the way employees interact with each other.

Respond Quickly: Once a conflict has been identified, it is important to respond quickly and decisively. Address any issues as soon as they arise and take appropriate action to resolve them.

Use Conflict Management Techniques: Conflict management techniques such as anger management, communication skills, and problem solving are all useful tools for handling conflicts. These techniques can help employees work through their differences and reach a resolution.

Be Professional: It is important to maintain a professional attitude when responding to conflicts. Remain calm and objective, and avoid taking sides or making judgments.


By following these tips, managers can effectively identify and respond to conflicts within the workplace. Doing so will help prevent conflicts from escalating and ensure a productive and healthy work environment.

Learning Conflict Resolution Strategies

Conflict resolution strategies are essential for a healthy work environment and to prevent workplace issues from escalating. As a manager, it’s important to understand the different strategies that can be used to handle conflict and ensure employees feel heard and respected. Here are some key strategies that can help you resolve workplace conflict:

Listen: The most important step in resolving conflict is to actively listen to both sides of the argument. Acknowledge and validate their feelings, and allow them to talk through the issues.

Be Respectful: Treat both parties with respect and maintain a calm, professional demeanor. Avoid making assumptions, stay open-minded, and don’t jump to conclusions.

Analyze the Problem: Identify the underlying problem and focus on the needs and interests of both parties. Ask questions to gain a better understanding of the situation, and look for common ground.

Develop Solutions: Work together to create a list of potential solutions that could address the problem. Encourage both parties to come up with ideas and explore different options.

Establish a Plan: Choose the best solution and create an action plan to implement it. Set clear expectations, timelines, and responsibilities for each party.

Follow-up: Follow-up with both parties to ensure the plan is being implemented properly. Monitor the progress and provide feedback and support as needed.


Learning conflict resolution strategies can help managers manage workplace conflict effectively and create a healthier work environment. Additionally, it’s important to provide employees with mental health training to help them manage their emotions and stay productive during times of conflict. Mental health training can also provide employees with the tools they need to interact more effectively with their co-workers and resolve conflicts in a more positive manner.

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Identifying Potential Conflict Triggers in the Workplace

Conflict in the workplace is an inevitable part of the business world, but it doesn’t have to be a source of stress and tension. Conflict can actually be an opportunity for growth and development if it is managed effectively. As a manager, it is important to be aware of potential conflict triggers and to take steps to mitigate them before they arise.

The first step in identifying potential conflict triggers is to understand what causes conflict in the workplace. Common sources of conflict include:

  • Differences in personalities or working styles
  • Differences in values or opinions
  • Unclear roles, responsibilities, or expectations
  • Competition for resources or recognition
  • Poor communication
  • Unfair treatment
  • Lack of trust

When it comes to identifying potential conflict triggers, it is important to be aware of the specific dynamics of your workplace. Get to know your employees and their individual strengths and weaknesses, as well as their relationships with each other. Pay attention to any signs of tension or disagreement, as these can be indicative of potential conflict triggers.

Another key step in identifying potential conflict triggers is to be proactive. Encourage open communication and collaboration between employees and create a culture of respect. Set expectations for appropriate behaviour and ensure that everyone is treated fairly. Make sure that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and that everyone has access to the resources they need.

Finally, it is important to be aware of the external factors that can lead to conflict in the workplace. These can include changes in the economy or the industry, shifts in technology, or changes in the company’s structure or strategy. Be aware of any changes that could potentially lead to increased tension or disagreement and be prepared to address them quickly and effectively.

By taking the time to identify potential conflict triggers and proactively address them, managers can create a workplace environment that is free from unnecessary conflict and stress. At PMAC, we offer mental health training to help managers understand the importance of conflict management and equip them with the skills and strategies they need to effectively manage workplace conflict.

Establishing Clear Communication Policies

Communication is key to any successful workplace and establishing clear communication policies can help managers effectively handle conflicts in the workplace. Setting out clear communication policies helps employees understand the expectations and standards of acceptable behaviour and communication.

When creating a communication policy, it is important to consider the following:

  • Tone: It is important to set a tone for communication that is professional, respectful, and non-confrontational. This will help to ensure all employees can communicate with each other without fear of judgement or criticism.
  • Language: Establishing guidelines on the language used in the workplace can help to ensure a positive and constructive environment. This can include avoiding language that is offensive, derogatory, or disrespectful.
  • Respect: Respect should be a core tenet of any communication policy. All employees should be treated with respect, regardless of rank or position.
  • Feedback: Establishing a policy on giving and receiving feedback is important to ensure communication is constructive and not personal. Feedback should be given in a respectful manner, focusing on the behaviour or performance rather than the person.
  • Listening: Encouraging employees to actively listen to each other is key to effective communication. It is important to show respect for other people’s opinions and views, even if they differ from your own.
  • Conflict Resolution: Setting out a policy for resolving conflicts is important to ensure that all employees are treated fairly and that disagreements are resolved in a constructive manner.

By establishing clear communication policies, managers can create an environment that encourages respect, effective communication, and conflict resolution. This can help to ensure that conflicts at work are handled in a professional and respectful manner.

For more information on how to handle conflict at work, check out our mental health training courses.

Creating an Open and Supportive Work Environment

Managers play an important role in creating an open and supportive work environment. A healthy workplace should be a place free from stress and anxiety where workers feel safe, supported, and respected. To ensure this, managers should make a conscious effort to foster an atmosphere of open communication and understanding.

The first step to creating a supportive work environment is to ensure that all employees feel comfortable expressing their opinions, ideas, and concerns. Managers should encourage a team-oriented approach and strive to create an environment that is open to constructive criticism and feedback. This can be accomplished by having regular meetings and team building activities, as well as providing employees with the opportunity to give their input on projects and processes.

Managers should also be aware of any potential conflicts between employees and take steps to resolve them quickly and effectively. Developing a culture of respect and understanding is key for resolving conflicts and preventing further issues. Managers should be proactive in addressing any signs of hostility or tension between coworkers and be willing to step in and mediate if necessary.

Finally, managers should strive to create an atmosphere of trust and respect. This can be done by recognizing and praising employees for their work, providing meaningful feedback, and offering support when needed. Additionally, managers should be sure to provide employees with the resources they need to do their job and take into account any personal or medical needs that may arise.

By taking the necessary steps to create an open and supportive workplace, managers can help foster an environment of understanding and respect. This will not only improve employee morale but will also help create a more productive and successful workplace.

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