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A Managerial Guide To Dealing With Staff Conflict

One of the greatest assets of any commercial organization is to be found in its employees. Regardless of business scale or complexity, this remains a fundamental truth.

It can also be observed that, throughout each of the past decades, the commercial sector has had to embrace significant social and cultural issues which have quite literally transformed the workplace. From issues of gender and race equality in the 1950s, to the introduction of new technology through subsequent decades, which impacted and replaced parts of the labor force, the employer/employee relationship has been tested with successive challenges.

Similarly, the present business environment finds itself challenged by questions of worker health and safety, and rapidly changing business practices, during a once in a lifetime health pandemic.

The question becomes: Are there some universal considerations which can assist management in dealing with human issues as they arise?

A Managerial Guide To Dealing With Staff Conflict

Listen! A conflict left unattended will escalate

There is a simple notion that remains constant throughout the years – we each feel the need to be recognized. The simple fact is that every single person, both employers and employees alike, view the world in a different way. Sometimes, it is that simple acknowledgment which diffuses potential conflict.

When a problem arises – Listen. Really listen. It is surprising the number of managers who take pride in their listening skills, yet find themselves with an escalating staffing problem.

Referral to a local specialized website provides a telling insight into the scale and depth of the industrial dispute issue. In short, a conflict left unattended will invariably escalate.

The first step in conflict resolution is putting aside personal thoughts and feelings on a matter, and focusing on hearing and understanding an individual’s problem or concern.

Agree on a solution! A conflict left unresolved will escalate

If listening is the first step, then the next step is to seek a solution which will reconcile the matter. Clarify with the worker (or workers in a larger industrial dispute) whether you have understood their concerns and correctly ascertained the extent of the problem.

Once the problem is understood by both parties, the next step is find a solution or a course of action which removes the concern for the employee, and is mutually acceptable to the employer.

The solution may be a simple and straightforward one in the majority of cases. Ensure that talk is supported by action – words are generally not enough to finalize a matter.

Quite often the matter is not simply addressed and may require a longer term ‘fix’ which may necessitate procedural, behavioral or cultural change. In this case, ensure that any commitment is honored – set progress milestones and regular meetings if needed.

Mediation by a third party

In more complex cases, the involvement of a third party may be warranted. This might be a ‘neutral’ party, perhaps chosen by the employee or a senior level manager.

If the conflict cannot be resolved in-house, the employment of an external consultant or legal firm may become the next logical step towards mediation and reconciliation.


Regardless of employment position or level, people respond best when they are treated as individuals and feel they are being listened to with interest. Taking some time to remind ourselves of these basic understandings often goes a long way to resolving human issues before they compound and develop.