Workplace Conflict Resolution Strategies

Conflict is a normal part of life that results when individuals in a group feel their needs, concerns or interests are threatened, according to the University of Wisconsin. How conflict begins and evolves depends on workplace characteristics that might encourage conflict, the existence of official avenues for employees to ask for help and whether your workplace has conflict resolution training 12. You can determine the strategy that works best in your situation by understanding the nature of conflict and the importance of communication to the resolution process 12.


Ignoring workplace conflict allows the problem to grow and become more difficult to resolve. Workplace conflict is a drain on the energy of all involved and escalation of the conflict can lead to serious consequences, according to the Business Growth Blog. Unresolved conflict causes resentment, brings other employees into the conflict, sets the tone for office politics, lowers productivity and depresses workplace morale. By responding to workplace conflict, you maintain a workplace atmosphere conducive to work, healthy relationships and job satisfaction.

Conflict Styles

People assume different styles of responding to conflict. While attempting to resolve workplace conflict, you might encounter any or all of these conflict styles. The effectiveness of your resolution strategy depends on understanding the conflict styles of the parties involved 12. Competing involves aggression in communication, coercion and control. People who accommodate give in to the needs of others, respond diplomatically and seek to preserve relationships. Avoiders view conflict as negative and seek to ignore what is happening. Individuals who compromise seek a give-and-take approach, which is nominally successful because no one is satisfied with the results. Collaborators want to work toward common goals or win-win solutions that require cooperation, consensus and integrating the needs of all parties involved.

Conflict Resolution Skills

The Conflict Resolution Network recommends developing conflict resolution skills that prepare you to move beyond personalities and choose cooperation over adversarial responses 12. Conflict resolution skills are based on the effective communication and are helpful in de-escalating and resolving workplace conflict 12. The Conflict Resolution Network recommends that you choose from the 12 skills those that work best in your situation, such as:

  • creative responses
  • empathy
  • appropriate assertiveness
  • managing emotions
  • negotiation
  • mediation 12

Managing your response to workplace conflict through the development of conflict resolution skills helps you to identify and successfully employ the appropriate resolution strategy 12.

Interest-Based Relational Approach

The Interest-Based Relational Approach to conflict resolution respects personal differences and relies on cooperation and effective communication between all parties 12. The guidelines for this approach recommend protecting relationships by maintaining calm and courteous behavior and remembering that people are not problems. Guidelines recommend respecting the needs of all involved as valid and equally important. The approach calls for active listening, which requires paying close attention to what people say and restating what you heard, and moving on as a group to consider a variety of resolutions before agreeing on one. Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society recommends using this approach to help the parties function as a group and avoid clinging to individual positions.

Designing a Mixed Strategy

One strategy for resolving workplace conflict involves understanding the conflict response styles of all involved and designing a strategy based on that knowledge. Mind Tools recommends using the different conflict response styles of the employees to identify a strategy or a mixture of strategies for your specific workplace conflict situation 12. Understanding the different conflict response styles also helps you to identify what has not worked in the past and helps you to select a more effective strategy.