4 Steps Toward Resolving Conflict Between Two Employees

Disputes between employees can range from a momentary disagreement to a conflict that’s not only ongoing but seems to keep getting worse. Constant bickering or disputes can create a workplace that’s tense and uncomfortable for the entire staff, and if a serious conflict isn’t addressed, you may be faced with absenteeism, cascading morale and staff turnover. When a disagreement keeps getting worse, it’s time to take steps toward resolving conflict between two employees.

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Meet with Those in Conflict

It’s not necessary for managers to get involved every time there’s a conflict, but when it’s clear the two employees that are involved in the conflict aren’t coming up with a solution, it’s time to find out what’s going on and work toward a solution. While you might have some idea what is causing the conflict from observing their behavior over time and from comments that may have been made by other employees, the best way to find out exactly what’s going on is by talking to those involved.

The best approach is usually to meet with both at the same time in a location that’s private to avoid interruptions or being distracting to others. Give each of the two employees a chance to explain their side of the conflict and why they haven’t been able to find a solution they can both live with. Dramatic emotional outbursts such as screaming aren’t allowed. Each should speak calmly and refrain from interrupting each other.

Brainstorm Solutions

Listen closely to what each of the team members in conflict are saying and also pay attention to what they’re communicating nonverbally with facial expressions or body language. It’s a good idea to take notes and repeat back to both of them what you’ve heard. This gives them a chance to rephrase what they’ve said if it’s been misunderstood.

Both employees should be involved in brainstorming possible solutions. Failing to come up with a solution isn’t an option. Your role is to act as an impartial mediator. Even if it’s clear to you that one employee is right and one is wrong, avoid taking sides.  Treat both with respect.

Each should state what they’re hoping to see happen, but both should acknowledge that they may not get exactly what they want. Look for common ground and work together to try to find a solution both can live with.

Monitor Progress

By the end of the meeting, the next steps should be clear to everyone involved. This doesn’t mean the conflict is behind you. Resolving conflict between two employees isn’t always straightforward. When tempers have erupted to the point that intervention from a manager has become necessary, there’s a good chance additional changes may need to be made.

It’s a good idea to schedule a follow-up meeting a week or two later to monitor progress. It’s possible that one or both is resistant to the solution you all agreed on or that the solution doesn’t actually solve the problem. It’s also possible additional disagreements have risen to the surface, especially if there’s a personality conflict underlying the situation. Discuss additional changes that could be made.

Get Help if Needed

If things aren’t improving, it may be time to get help from others. One option is to reach out to your HR department, which is a good idea if one of the employees feels the other is receiving preferential treatment or if one is accusing the other of bullying or harassment. Employees may feel that HR can be more neutral than their manager.

Another thing to consider is reaching out to conflict resolution experts. Contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems for conflict resolution services, conflict coaching or training.


Valerie Dansereau


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