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Conflict Resolution

Finding the Best Way to Settle Issues

Supervisors are responsible for creating a work environment that enables employees to be successful. If disagreements and differences of opinion escalate into interpersonal conflict, it is important for the supervisor to intervene immediately.

Clear and open communication is the foundation of successful conflict resolution. The Employee Relations staff can assist by coaching both parties on ways to resolve the issue.

Tips to Avoid in Conflict Resolution

  • Do not avoid the conflict, hoping it will go away. Trust me. It won't. Even if the conflict appears to have been superficially put to rest, it will rear its ugly head whenever stress increases or a new disagreement occurs. An unresolved conflict or interpersonal disagreement festers just under the surface in your department. It burbles to the surface whenever enabled, and always at the worst possible moment. This, too, shall pass, is not an option - ever.
  • Do not meet separately with people in conflict. If you allow each individual to tell their story to you, you risk polarizing their positions. The person in conflict has a vested interest in making himself or herself "right" if you place yourself in the position of judge and jury. The sole goal of the employee, in this situation, is to convince you of the merits of their case.
  • Do not believe, for even a moment, the only people who are affected by the conflict are the participants. Everyone in your office and every employee with whom the conflicting employees interact, is affected by the stress. People feel as if they are walking on egg shells in the presence of the antagonists. This contributes to the creation of a hostile work environment for other employees. In worst case scenarios, your employees take sides and your department is divided.

Tips to Resolve Conflict

  • Meet with the antagonists together. Let each briefly summarize their point of view, without comment or interruption by the other party. This should be a short discussion so that all parties are clear about the disagreement and conflicting views. Intervene if either employee attacks the other employee. This is not acceptable.
  • Ask each participant to describe specific actions they'd like to see the other party take that would resolve the differences.Three or four suggestions work well. An example is, "I'd like Mary to send the report to me by Thursday at 1 p.m. so I can complete my assignment by my due date of Friday at noon." A second example is, "I would like to have responsibility for all of the project development and follow-up with that department. The way the work is divided now causes Tom and I to never know what the other person is doing."
  • Sometimes, as in the second example above, you, as the supervisor, must own some of the responsibilities for helping the employees resolve their conflict. Always ask, "What about the work situation is causing these employees to fail?"
  • If the situation needs further exploration, ask each participant to additionally identify what the other employee can do more of, less of, stop and start.
  • All participants discuss and commit to making the changes necessary to resolve the conflict. Commit to noticing that the other person has made a change, no matter how small. Commit to treating each other with dignity and respect. It is okay to have reasonable disagreements over issues and plans; it is never okay to have personality conflicts that affect the department.
  • Let the antagonists know that you will not choose sides, that it is impossible for a person external to the conflict to know the truth of the matter. You expect the individuals to resolve the conflicts proactively as adults. If they are unwilling to do so, you will be forced to take disciplinary action that could lead to dismissal for both parties.
  • Finally, assure both parties that you have every faith in their ability to resolve their differences and get on with their successful contributions within your department. Set a time to review progress.

Please contact the Employee Relations staff if you need assistance with resolving a conflict in your area or department.


Rankin Hall Room, 300
Terre Haute, IN 47809

Phone: (812) 237-4114

Office Hours:
Monday-Friday 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.