Conflict Resolution

Conflict Management Tips for Managers

Daryl Cowie asked:

Everyone has conflicts with other people from time to time; at work, at home, with our friends. Any time we spend a lot of time with people, eventually we bash heads. With our good friends we work through it. With people we dislike, we often just walk away.

But when the conflict happens at work, the walk away option is suddenly taken away. Of course you can walk away from the immediate situation, but the option to never work it out is not a realistic one. So when conflict arises, take a deep breath, and start your way down these five steps to conflict resolution.

1. Look at your own behavior.

The first thing you need to do is take a deep breath and look at your own behavior. We live in a victim culture, and have a tendency to believe it is always the other persons fault. If we slip and fall it’s because someone didn’t clean their sidewalk, if we burn ourselves with our coffee it’s because the restaurant made it too hot, if we hit another car from behind it’s because they braked or switched lanes too quickly. It’s never because we were not careful.

Unfortunately this same mentality carries over to the workplace. Most of us too quickly place the blame on everyone and everything else before admitting that we also have a part in where we are and what we are doing when bad things happen. If fact we’ve gone so far down this path that many managers believe you should never admit you were wrong in a work environment.

So before you get too hard on the other person, take a look at yourself and think about how you could have approached the situation differently in the first place. Look at the situation from the other person’s point of view before you pass judgment.

2. Talk to the person first

Assuming you have taken an honest look at your part in the conflict, and still feel the other person is at least partly to blame. Go talk to them. I know it sounds simple, but most conflicts can be resolved this way. Unfortunately what many people do instead is go complain to their co-workers instead. They tell everyone but the person they have the problem with all about it.

When the person finally finds out you have a problem with them it’s through the grapevine, and now the situation is a lot bigger and harder to resolve than it ever needed to be. If you talk to the person you have issue with before you talk to everyone else it is a lot easier to resolve the situation. Ninety percent of the time, this is all the conflict resolution you need and you can forget the other steps.

If this doesn’t work the first time, don’t despair. Give it a day to cool and try again. This second attempt shows the other person that this is important you and you want to work it out. Try talking to the person at least two times before you run to their manager.

3. Talk to their manager

If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to resolve the issue between the two of you, then it’s time to bring it to their manager. Part of a manager’s job is to resolve contentious issues between people. Often, just notifying their manager that you have a problem is enough to solve the problem. This lets people know that you really have a problem with the situation and are determined to follow through to get a resolution.

Be sure that you’ve honestly tried talking to the person at least twice before you involve their manager. The biggest mistake people make when bringing in people’s managers, especially in the email age, is to “run to mommy” too soon. Yes, managers are there to help you resolve things, but you are also grown-ups in a work environment, not children in a daycare. There are few things worse for a manager than high maintenance employees who need their help with everything.

If you can tell their manager that you tried talking to the person first, they will be more inclined to listen to your story, and offer some assistance. If you run to them too soon, they’ll probably just tell you to work it out amongst yourselves.

4. Talk to your manager

If you’ve tried talking to the other person, and to their manager and still haven’t come to any resolution you are probably getting frustrated. This is where your manager comes in. First of all, you have the right to complain about a situation to your manager. It’s part of what they are there for. Second of all, if you don’t talk to someone on your side about it, you’ll end up complaining about it to your team.

If you are a manager yourself, it is important to remember that you always complain up, not down. It’s okay to discuss your grievances with your manager. It is not okay to complain about the business and any of its people to your team. Part of your responsibility is to represent your company to your team in the best possible light. If the boss is complaining about a situation, things will deteriorate quickly.

After talking to your manager, you need to accept the resolution given. If they choose not to resolve it to your liking, that is their decision and you need to respect it. In all but the most severe situations, this is where it should stop. We are all grown-ups here, and sometimes we simply need to accept that we don’t always get everything our own way.

5. Talk to HR

In most situations, you should not need to take issues to your Human Resources team. Although they encourage you to come and talk to them, there are implications of bringing items to this team.

Items brought to HR become a matter of permanent record. The record will show that you are a complainer, and that the other person is being complained about. They may not write every issue up and put it in the filing cabinet (although you may be surprised at how often they do), but it will still be in the permanent record of their brain. The next time they sit down to advise on employee raises and promotions with senior management your behavior and complaint pattern will impact their decisions.

If the issue is with your manager, go ahead and take it to HR. If it’s about anything else consider discussing it with your manager before taking it to HR. They should be trained when to send you to human resources and when to deal with the situation more privately.


In general, there are simple steps people can use to work out conflicts between them. Start by looking at yourself and at the issue from the other person’s perspective. Then take it through the normal mode of escalation. Most conflicts can be resolved one on one, so always go talk to the person you have a problem with before you go to their manager or your manager.

At the end of the day you should always be prepared to accept that things may not get worked out the way you want them to. Do what you can to make your case, and then respect the decision of you management team.

Website content

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *