Managing and Resolving Conflict in the Workplace

Thank you to Trisha Huizenga of Facilitate, LLC who presented for Career Options today! Her topic was “Managing Conflict and Using Meditation as a Business Problem Solving Tool”.  She received excellent reviews from the attendees so I wanted to share some of her key points that were followed up with a group discussion:


What can you do as a manager to manage conflict?

    • Recognize symptoms of conflict and address them immediately. Don’t ignore them and assume the conflict will go away. It won’t! It’s much easier to resolve a conflict when it is fresh and doesn’t fester.
    • Continuously work on building a healthy team. Plan activities that help the team members get to know each other better and appreciate or at least recognize their differences.
    • Work with the team on defining team values, defining acceptable and unacceptable team behaviors, clarifying the role of each team member, setting team goals, and holding each team member accountable.
    • Have the team devise a plan for handling conflict. Encourage team members to take ownership of the conflict and try to resolve it directly. If that’s not possible, encourage the team members to bring the issue to you. Trisha recommends that you meet with the involved members together rather than meeting individually with them. As they explain the situation to you, they are each learning the other’s perspective. Ask many questions to get to the underlying cause of the problem. Encourage them to express their feelings and emotions. If possible, avoid giving a solution. Encourage them to create their own solution. When faulty work processes cause the conflict, support changing the processes. Encourage team members to commit to specific actions and behaviors that will help regain trust.
    • Provide ongoing one-on-one coaching to all your direct reports to curb unhealthy behaviors and provide truthful, specific and positive feedback.

When should you involve someone from HR?

    • If the team members are not willing to open up about the conflict, talk to HR. The team members might be embarrassed or might not want to lose face with you. They might feel exceedingly uncomfortable with dealing with conflict.
    • If you try to work with the team members and are unsuccessful in getting an agreement, perhaps an HR person can provide a fresh approach.
    • If you the manager are one of the team members directly involved with the conflict, and you are not able to resolve the conflict with the other team members, then an HR person can be a neutral party.

When should HR bring in a mediator?

    • Sometimes it helps to bring in an outside mediator who has no preconceived notions about the people involved or the politics of the organization. The mediator has no ongoing relationship with the team members and no influence or control over the future career of the team members. Total confidentiality encourages team members to freely express themselves, so we are able to deal with the underlying cause of the conflict.
    • If a conflict involves a potential legal dispute (sexual harassment, wrongful dismissal, etc.), an outside mediator may reduce risk.


For more information on mediation, please feel welcome to contact:

Trisha Huizenga

Facilitate, LLC
Chair of Vistage 23 and 54

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