1. Blog
  2. Career
  3. Conflict resolution skills: examples and solutions
Written by Paul DruryPaul Drury

Conflict resolution skills: examples and solutions

10 min read
Conflict Resolution Skills: Examples and Solutions
Artwork by:Alexander Kostenko
Conflict can provide the impetus for progress, but when unresolved it can make teams implode. A workplace without conflict is stagnant, but one with lingering conflicts feels like a battleground. That is why conflict resolution skills are so vital.

Conflict between individuals or teams that spirals out of control can cause friction that derails projects and torpedoes relationships. In a complicated workplace where big personalities push their own agendas, conflict resolution skills are key to finding a way forward and soothing battered egos. 

Employers are looking for people who can say: “Do you know what? Let’s fix this.”

When passions run high, conflicts are inevitable. If they are allowed to fester, staff turnover will increase, productivity will drop, and morale will suffer. Breakthrough ideas are often born from conflict, but only if the negative aspects of the conflict are sidelined to concentrate on nurturing the positives.

In this blog, we consider the skills involved in conflict resolution, as well as some examples:

  • What exactly is conflict resolution?
  • Are there different types of conflict in the workplace?
  • Six-step process to resolve a conflict – with examples.
  • The conflict resolution skills of an effective mediator.

What is conflict resolution?

Conflict is common when two people or teams have differing ideas, approaches, objectives, or beliefs. Conflict resolution entails finding a common ground and moving towards a solution that will work for both parties.

Conflict mediation could come from within the team or from an external observer. In both cases, impartial objectivity is key to seeing both sides of the issue. It is important that the person resolving the conflict does not get drawn into it - that can complicate the issue.

The best leaders seek to use conflict as fuel to bring teams closer together, build consensus around thorny problems and help people to realize that they are “in it together.” 

If a team was peaceful all the time, everyone would work away quietly in their own little silos and there would be no exchange of ideas. Conflict is healthy, but only if it is resolved in the right way by the right person.

Types of conflict in the workplace

There are three common types of conflict in the workplace. Each has its own nuances:

Employee conflicts

Conflicts between two employees of equal status are usually resolved by a more senior member of staff. This seniority often gives the mediator enough authority and gravitas to push through the resolution. Having said this, the best top-down conflict resolution approach is creative and sensitive rather than authoritative and domineering.

Example: Simon complains that Sarah is always late providing the figures for his monthly reports. Sarah says that his deadlines are unreasonable and do not give her enough time to collate what is required. Both are stubborn and unwilling to find a compromise.

10 Leadership skills to include on your resume + examples
Related article
10 Leadership skills to include on your resume + examples

Sharing your array of leadership skills is essential to securing your dream job, so which ones do you showcase on your resume and how do you talk about them?

Conflicts with manager

Conflicts between a manager and an employee are a whole different proposition. Managers should be able to smooth out most disagreements. However, every now and again, issues come along that can only be resolved with objective external mediation. It is important not to undermine the manager’s authority, whilst at the same time realizing that they can err.

Example: Layla feels that her boss Rachel is not listening to her and always dismisses her ideas. Rachel thinks that Layla should concentrate on getting the basics of her job right before she can get involved in strategic matters. Their workplace expectations differ.

Client disagreements

Disagreements with clients or service providers will not only disrupt working relationships but may also have a serious impact on the bottom line. Many clients cannot be easily replaced, so investing time in conflict resolution is critical (while ideally trying to avoid conflicts in the first place). Take care that client relations are not abusive or discriminatory.

Example: The client has had a change of management and wants to renegotiate the payment terms on the contract. Negative cash flow is impacting their service provision. The company manager is refusing to amend the contract until it runs out in two years’ time.

Complete guide to job search methods
Related article
Complete guide to job search methods

Searching for a new job can be a daunting task. This job search guide to the digital job market of 2023 can help you come up with a successful plan to find the job that’s right for you (including finding unlisted jobs and job searching with no experience).

How to resolve a conflict

The first thing to consider before you enter the conflict zone is that you should strive to maintain a suitable emotional distance. If you get embroiled in the heat of the moment you will become part of the conflict rather than remaining an impartial mediator.

Here are six basic steps to resolving a conflict:

Acknowledge the issue

The first step is to listen actively to both parties in order to understand their varying perspectives. Recognize the importance of the issue for both and come to a mutual agreement that it needs to be solved.

Listening skills: Intuition, encouragement, attentiveness, persuasion, active listening, respect, sincerity, articulation, calmness

Encourage empathy

Coaxing each party to explore the problem from the other person’s perspective is a great place to start. What is triggering them to adopt such an opinion? How has the conflict arisen? Is there anything that I can do to move toward their position?

Empathy skills: Compassion, enabling trust, patience, inclusion, balance, flexible thinking, emotional intelligence, being present

What to do when you hate your job
Related article
What to do when you hate your job

When you hate your job, you might consider that it is time for a change, but is there anything else that you can do? Is it possible to escape this feeling of dread every morning?

Act as a mediator

Acting as an impartial judge and jury is not a simple matter. A great mediator in a conflict enables both parties to come to a mutual understanding and helps them to work out a way forward. Provide time and space for an objective resolution. Be an observant cheerleader.

Mediation skills: Positivity, professionalism, rational approach, impartiality, measured, transparency, humility, diplomacy, perception

Prioritize action

Understanding the conflict is one thing. Moving forward to find a solution requires an extra push. It will involve both parties making compromises, so insist on positive action from the very beginning of the conflict resolution process. It is about the journey, not the destination.

Assertiveness skills: Determination, visionary thinking, delegating, prioritizing, honesty, negotiation, fairness, leadership, influencing, data-driven

Solve problems and create a plan

When the need for action has been agreed upon, the time has come for solving problems and finding a way forward. Identify changes in behavior and attitudes that can improve relationships and remove the operational or commercial roadblocks.

Problem-solving skills: Creativity, critical thought, collaboration, problem resolution, brainstorming, strategic thinking, negotiation, decision making, organization

Follow up and ensure accountability

Conflicts can easily reignite when the focus on them has diminished. The two parties will find another reason and things will kick off again. Monitor progress, keep an eye on relationships, and consider more serious action if conflicts escalate.

Accountability skills: Drive, focus, feedback, motivation, versatility, leadership, following-through, impartiality, planning, logic

The most popular quote of the 50 best rated leadership books
Related article
The most popular quote of the 50 best rated leadership books

We purchased the 50 best rated leadership books and, using the ‘most highlighted’ feature in Amazon’s Kindle, found the most popular quotes from each one.

Key takeaways

Every great company is running so fast that everything is on the brink of falling apart. Experienced managers know when to nudge the brakes and when to bring their people back together after a passionate disagreement. 

Conflict resolution is at the heart of this consolidation effort. People learn a lot about each other when there are disagreements, but they should not be allowed to take things too far.

To recap, here are the basics of effective conflict resolution:

  • First seek to understand the conflict and the personalities involved.
  • Listening and empathy skills will show that you are on top of the issues.
  • Mediate between the parties and encourage positive action.
  • Create a plan that is acceptable to all and ensure that it is carried out.
  • Aim to repair relationships and follow up to check compliance.
Build your resume in 15 minutes
Build your resume in 15 minutes
Use professional field-tested resume templates that follow the exact ‘resume rules’ employers look for.
Create My Resume
Share this article
Keep reading
Resume Help18 min read
Hard skills vs. soft skills: What they are and how to use them to your advantage
Hard skills vs. soft skills: What they are and how to use them to your advantage
Resume Help10 min read
Elon Musk’s resume: The business tycoon’s accomplishments all fit onto one page
Elon Musk’s resume: The business tycoon’s accomplishments all fit onto one page
Career7 min read
8 Ideas to help you get promoted
8 Ideas to help you get promoted
Resume Help26 min read
80 Soft skills for resumes
80 Soft skills for resumes
Browse All
This website uses cookies to improve user experience and perform analytics and marketing. By using our website, you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Cookie Policy and Privacy Policy.
Accept Cookies