Managing conflict

Managing conflict between individuals


When a workplace conflict arises you should try to take a calm approach and not react in a challenging way. You should also not ignore the problem and hope that it will go away.

The best way to handle workplace conflict is to face it and have a planned approach to help you deal with it in a practical way. If you have policies or procedures in place, you can use these to determine how you approach the issue causing the conflict or to give your employee an idea of how you will address the problem.

Employee representative

It may help to have an employee representative and/or a senior manager who can help if:

  • employees find it difficult to confront their managers and make a complaint
  • you are not able to speak to each employee individually

Talk informally

You should allow everyone to clear the air and have their say. Employees need to know who they can go to when they have issues or problems and that they will be taken seriously.

Investigate formally

It is important that you make an informed decision by gathering information from everyone involved with the issue causing the workplace conflict. You should think about what would be the best outcome for everyone involved, including the business itself.

Use internal procedures

You should make sure that your grievance procedure is up to date and communicated to all staff, discussed at team meetings and at individual appraisals. These procedures will also help deal with issues such as bullying, absence and misconduct. See grievance and disciplinary procedures and templates.

Skills for dealing with conflict

Having one-to-one conversations requires sensitivity and empathy. You should always make sure that you:

  • listen to what an employee says
  • question them calmly to understand any underlying problems
  • consider problems from a variety of perspectives
  • lead by example
  • comply with the latest employment laws
  • have up to date policies on dispute resolution procedures

The Labour Relations Agency (LRA) employer training programme provides pre-recorded webinars in relevant topics such as handling difficult conversations and dignity at work. See LRA events.

Get external help and advice

Resolving personal conflicts can be difficult if you feel you are too close to the problem.

The LRA may be able to help by providing mediation. This involves an independent, impartial person helping two or more individuals or groups to discuss their problems and reach a solution that's acceptable to everyone.