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Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
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“He did what!?” How Effective Teams Manage Conflict and Debate

A busy work day is often stressful enough, but sprinkle in some tension between coworkers and getting things done becomes even harder.

According to the report, Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness It to Thrive, “29% of employees deal with conflict almost constantly, 33% of conflict is caused by heavy workloads, and 27% of employees have witnessed conflicts lead to personal attacks.”

So how can managers steer their team toward resolution without sacrificing time or productivity? Ideally, it’s by creating a culture of healthy conflict resolution before disagreements arise.

Don’t Avoid It
First things first – don’t sweep it under the rug. Not addressing conflict in a timely manner creates a workplace culture of unease (at best), or triangulation and gossip (at worst).

Schedule a Meeting
Everyone is strapped for time, and another meeting might be the last thing you want on your to-do list. But one-on-one open communication is the perfect salve for a conflict that is not too heated or severe yet.

Get a Mediator
If the conflict has lingered for a while and surpassed a point each party feels calm enough for a private meeting, it’s time to bring in a third party. A team member who is comfortable with the mediator role can be immensely helpful in keeping negotiations professional and direct. Someone who has no stakes in the argument, a true neutral perspective, can provide clarity.

Conflict can be good. And, when treated correctly, will yield collaboration and creativity. Why? Because differing opinions actually help workplaces thrive. Even research supports the idea that diversity of all kinds makes for stronger, more sustainable businesses in the long run.

Create a Plan
For conflict resolution to be truly effective, each party must walk away feeling better. In addition, each party should be well aware of the decisions that were made – including who has new responsibilities, how workflow is going to change, etc. If no plans are implemented, the conflict is likely to pop up again in a similar way.

Both leadership and individual team members must remember that conflict is perfectly natural and can even catalyze business growth. It means that team members are being honest and thinking critically. Ultimately, these are the qualities you want in your team members.


  1. Linda Garnett

    There is definite conflict with our team – supervisors against staff. No one is hearing each other – and it’s been very stressful.

    • Mary Kelly

      Thank you for sharing that, Linda, and sorry to hear the situation at your work has been stressful. Hope the tips I shared in this article are helpful to you.


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