Handling Unexpected Conflicts In the Workplace

Disagreement in the workplace, if left unchecked by leadership, can derail entire projects and lead to extremely toxic work environments. Because of this, managers must remain diligent and prepared with effective conflict resolution strategies. Here are just a few of the tactics good leaders use to handle tension in the office.

Effective Leadership

Managers who hold themselves to a higher standard and take their responsibilities seriously are the most capable of developing strong teams and organizations. Part of being an effective leader is engaging with employees and learning how to spot arising conflict. The sooner you know there’s a problem, the quicker you can act to resolve it.


You might be surprised at how little some companies value communication. Conflict resolution, in any situation, relies on your ability to hear what’s being said as well as what’s not. One of the essential aspects of active listening is asking for clarification when you’re not sure about the meaning of a statement. Additionally, effective communication requires careful attention to the nuances of language, including body language, non-verbal queues and even silence. Knowing how to talk to the people in your organization is key to preventing epic failures.


The goal of conflict resolution is to focus on facts, not feelings. Remember, you are a manager, not a therapist, and your role in the situation is to address specific events, not the emotional responses that followed. This can be difficult because everyone in the office may have different thoughts and beliefs about a circumstance. However, you could spend countless hours trying to interpret a behavior, which doesn’t help you solve an immediate problem.

Diligence and Timing

As a leader, knowing when to act is essential. The best time to address conflict is after you’ve gathered all the facts and evidence of wrongdoing, but before your inaction creates a lack of confidence in your management skills. Waiting too long to quash the issue will lead to anger and resentment in your organization. You must anticipate the response, carefully decide your best course and trust yourself to conduct an effective operation.

Navigating Boundaries

Left unchecked, even minor conflicts can become unmanageable. It’s important to realize the size of your organization because each person within it deals with conflict differently. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to know the boundaries and limitations of your employees. Through careful observation and attention, you’ll be able to identify behaviors that provoke negativity or conflict in the office.


Leaders who consistently reinforce their expectations are able to mold strong and effective teams with fewer conflicts than those who don’t. Coaching is a great tool for setting precedence and cementing standards. Plus, when you engage with your people during these sessions, you learn more about them on a personal level. This helps you to shape your conflict resolution strategies based on your understanding of your organizational ecosystem.


Conflict resolution is not black and white. No one gets to be right because of age, seniority or experience alone. The best managers are those who do not impose their influence in a threatening or intimidating manner. Rather, they treat others with respect and seek to learn from everyone. As workplaces become more culturally and generationally diverse, tensions may increase, but effective leaders will recognize the opportunities for growth and professional development.


Sometimes, leaders have to do things they don’t want to do. Confronting conflict head-on is risky and unpleasant but necessary in order to maintain homeostasis in the organization. Waiting too long to address a problem leads to long-term unrest which could result in devastating consequences for a business. There’s a reason you’ve gone through all of that leadership training, so don’t be afraid to step into action to prevent a mass exodus that cripples your operation.


Disputes are a normal part of human interaction. In a professional setting, it can be motivating, or it can be troubling. Good leaders are able to determine the difference between healthy conflict and destructive tension and create a healthy balance where teams can thrive.

Related: Tips to Encourage Self-Care Among Your Employees