How to manage conflict within a team

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Conflict is something very common in many aspects of daily life.

A person can have a conflict against themselves, another person, nature, technology, society, authority, specific ideas and beliefs, etc.  It’s inevitable, but it shouldn’t be something to be scared of, as through conflict resolution comes change.

Therefore, conflict in the workplace is something that you will have to be ready, well equipped and willing to deal with.

If you manage to resolve conflict successfully, the benefits of conflict will be great for your business; healthier employee relationships, morale and motivation, higher productivity, better levels of staff development, stronger problem-solving skills and ability to identify issues at an early stage.

If conflict in the workplace stays unresolved apart from not having the benefits described above, it will also lead to increased levels of employee dissatisfaction and possible higher employee turnover, poor levels of customer service leading to loss in profit and damage in brand reputation, staff behavioral changes including increased levels of work-related stress and sickness absence, or even to legal claims for discrimination, harassment, unfair and hostile working environment.   

Signs of conflict in the workplace

Spotting the signs of conflict, especially at an early stage is critical.

These signs will give you all the necessary information to be able to assess the current situation and evaluate your steps of action to resolve it successfully.

Specific signs of conflict in the workplace are easily identifiable.

They might include like drops in productivity levels, increased staff turnover, high levels of absenteeism due to sickness, increased work-related stress and anxiety cases within the team, large number of complaints and behavioural change during staff interaction including derogatory comments and decline in common social events organised.

Sources of conflict in the workplace

But not all signs of conflict are obvious and easily identifiable, therefore it is crucial to know the main sources of conflict in the workplace in order to be able to identify any signs at an early stage and use the right method for resolution.

Personal Conflict

This type of conflict is usually the result of issues outside of work which the employee is facing.

They can include a crisis like a divorce or relationship breakdown, personal or family member’s health issues, loss of a close person, etc.

Interpersonal Conflict

This takes place between two or more people when they have different approaches in specific areas like work style, motivation, productivity and communication, different personal goals and needs.   

Organisational Conflict

The main reasons of this type of conflict are bad management, poor working environment, unfair treatment and discrimination, lack of training, bullying, harassment and lack of equal opportunities.

Power Conflict

This can be defined as the clash between two parties which are battling for maximising their influence and input in the decision making.

The main reasons of this type of conflict are the lack of clear hierarchy and job roles within the business, and also the inequality in the ways the staff members are reporting to each other.  

Values Conflict

This occurs when there are incompatible practices, principles and preferences which people believe, like politics, ethics, religion, sports teams, etc.

Ways to resolve conflict in the workplace

When dealing with conflict you need to use 2 main things:

  1. Emotional Intelligence
  2. the ABC rule in conflict resolution

Using Emotional Intelligence in conflict resolution

It is a fact that, during any conflict, strong emotional responses are generated for all parties involved.

The person dealing with the conflict and trying to find a resolution to it, is also expected to respond emotionally because of the necessity of dealing with the issue and can be directly affected by the behaviour which is causing the conflict.

Using your emotional intelligence, which will help you to learn how to recognise yours and other people emotional state, is critical for resolving any type of conflict successfully.

There are 6 basic types of emotional states and they can all be felt to a different extent:

  • Happiness: from mildly to extremely happy
  • Fear: from little apprehensive to complete terror
  • Sadness: from little sad to severe depression
  • Surprise: from little surprised to “lost for words”
  • Anger: from a bit irritated to furious
  • Disgust: from mild dislike to “makes me want to vomit”   

During the conflict and the resolution process, feeling more than one emotion at the same time is very common.  

Using your emotional intelligence will help you to understand other people’s emotional state and will be able to act accordingly.

In order to reach the best possible outcome with the least damage. It will also help you understand that different personalities have different emotional response to the same events.

Therefore, those people who have the tendency to react much more emotionally, they need to be judged differently compared to someone who hardly ever shows any emotion.

The ABC rule in conflict resolution

This basic rule in conflict resolution consists of 3 main parts:

  1. Assess seriousness
  2. Be impartial and sensitive
  3. Clear decision needs to be made.

Assess seriousness

The seriousness of each conflict case is different. The level of seriousness can vary as follows:

  • Healthy disagreement: when there has been different ideas between two or more people, but the issue has already been resolved.
  • Minor Conflict: in this case, there is a failure to follow the same working or behavioral standards with the rest of the people.
  • Conflict: this is when someone has made other people upset by being rude and highly argumentative.
  • Serious Conflict: at this level of conflict, the person has used offensive, discriminatory, provocative, harassing or bullying behaviour.

Be impartial and sensitive

It is a fact that all types of emotional responses are generated through conflict. Therefore, you need to keep yourself calm and considered during the process of trying to resolve the issue. There is a number of points to follow and consider at this stage:

  • Make the right questions which don’t imply a view or assumption to all parties involved, without excluding anyone.
  • Keep an objective attitude and don’t take any side.
  • Identify the other person’s emotional state
  • Don’t reach any conclusion early and avoid sharing your views and feelings about the situation.
  • Record the conversation by keeping notes or audio record for future reference.
  • If you believe that any misconduct, has taken place, then you need to get some information and guidance advice from the company’s policy on disciplinary action.

Clear decision needs to be made

It goes without saying that at the end of the whole process, a clear decision must be made, otherwise the issue will become worse and much more difficult and complex to resolve in the future.  Points to follow and consider at this stage:

  • Before you start communicating to the parties involved about any decision you have reached, check all the relevant organisational procedures and policies.
  • You need to be strong and decisive at this final stage. Don’t try to avoid making a decision because you feel it’s a hard thing to do.
  • Arrange to speak in private to the people who are in fault.
  • Communicate your decision with the rest of the team so they know that the issue has been dealt accordingly.


When there is conflict within your business, don’t hope that it will all just go away.

If you don’t deal with it successfully on time using all the points described above, it will come back stronger and more complex, making it harder to resolve.