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How to Handle Employee Conflict: 8 Tips to Leading Through Turbulent Waters

March 28, 20243 min read

In any workplace, conflicts among employees are inevitable. Whether it's a disagreement over project responsibilities, differences in work styles, or personal clashes, these conflicts can disrupt productivity, damage morale, and strain team dynamics. As a leader, your ability to navigate and resolve these conflicts effectively is crucial for maintaining a positive work environment and fostering a culture of collaboration and respect.

Let’s explore eight strategies to help you lead through employee conflict.

  1. RECOGNIZE THE CONFLICT. The first step in addressing employee conflicts is to recognize when they arise. Pay attention to changes in behavior, increased tension, or a decline in productivity. These could be warning signs of an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

  2. ENCOURAGE COMMUNICATION. Create an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their concerns and frustrations. Create communication channels such as team meetings, 1:1 check-in, or open-door policy. When employees feel heard, they are more likely to address conflicts constructively rather than letting them escalate.

  3. ACT SWIFTLY. When conflicts arise, it's important to address them FAST before they escalate further. Take the time to gather all relevant information, listen to all sides of the story, and assess the situation objectively before acting. Rushing to resolve conflicts without careful consideration can sometimes do more harm than good.

  4. PROMOTE EMPATHY. Empathy is a powerful tool for resolving conflicts. Encourage employees to put themselves in each other’s shoes and consider the perspectives and feelings of others. Help them understand that conflicts usually come from misunderstandings and that finding common ground is essential for moving forward.

  5. FACILITATE DIALOGUE. As a leader, you may need to act as a mediator to facilitate constructive dialogue between conflicting parties. Create a safe space for dialogue, listen to each perspective, and guide the conversation towards finding a mutually agreeable solution.

  6. SET EXPECTATIONS & BOUNDARIES. Establish clear expectations and boundaries for acceptable behavior in the workplace. Communicate these expectations regularly and reinforce them through policies, guidelines, and training programs. When conflicts arise, you can refer to these expectations and hold them accountable for their actions.

  7. IF NECESSARY, SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP. In some cases, conflicts may be too complex or deeply rooted to resolve internally. Don’t hesitate to seek outside assistance – an HR professional, conflict resolution specialist, or a mediator who can facilitate a solution.

  8. FOLLOW UP & MONITOR PROGRESS. Conflict resolution is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Follow up with the parties involved after the conflict has been addressed to ensure that the resolution is working and to address any lingering issues.

Leading through employee conflicts requires patience, empathy, and effective communication skills. As a leader it is important to foster a culture where employees feel valued, respected, and motivated to succeed. By addressing conflicts promptly, proactively, and thoughtfully you can strengthen your team and drive your business forward.

For assistance on how you can prepare yourself and your business for the Exit Strategy, consider working with Greenlight Leadership Development Group.  We come alongside leaders to help them scale their business for exit!  For more information, visit our website or reach out to

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Jeanette Armbrust

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