How to Resolve Workplace Conflict and Foster Harmony – Insights from a Mediator

Conflict is an undeniable reality when people spend their days together in the workplace. It can arise between colleagues, permeate entire teams or emerge between managers and their employees. However, the challenges posed by workplace conflict can be overcome. In this blog post, we will delve into the intricacies of workplace conflict, uncover its root causes, highlight the potential costs it incurs, and provide valuable tips from a seasoned mediator on how

Types of Workplace Conflict:

Workplace conflicts can manifest in different ways, including:

  • Interpersonal Conflict occurs when individuals have personal differences, clash in personalities, or experience a breakdown in communication.
  • Task Conflict: Task-related conflicts arise from work-related goals, processes, or responsibilities disagreements.
  • Leadership Conflict: Conflict may arise when managers and employees have conflicting expectations, communication breakdowns, or differences in leadership styles.
  • Organisational Conflict: Conflicts stemming from structural issues, competing interests, or organisational changes fall under this category.

What Causes Conflict at Work?

Several factors contribute to workplace conflict:

  • Communication Issues: Poor communication, misunderstandings, or misinterpretations can lead to conflicts.
  • Differences in Values and Perspectives: Conflicting individual values, beliefs, or perspectives can spark disagreements.
  • Role Ambiguity: Unclear roles, responsibilities, or expectations can cause conflicts within teams or between managers and employees.
  • Scarce Resources: Conflicts can arise when there is competition for limited resources, such as budget, time, or personnel.

The Cost of Conflict in the Workplace

Unresolved workplace conflict can have significant consequences:

  • Decreased Productivity: Conflicts can disrupt workflow, reduce collaboration, and hamper overall productivity.
  • Increased Stress and Burnout: Employees involved in conflicts often experience heightened stress levels, leading to decreased job satisfaction and increased burnout.
  • Employee Turnover: Persistent conflicts may result in talented employees leaving the organisation, leading to increased recruitment and training costs.
  • Hostile Work Environment: Unresolved conflicts create a toxic work atmosphere, affecting team morale and overall job satisfaction.

Tips for dealing with conflict:

1. Deal with it early:

Don’t avoid it or pretend nothing has happened. Often you will find managers completely shy away from situations with even a whiff of conflict, hoping that the conflict will somehow go away or resolve itself. Unfortunately, as time goes on, the conflict only will escalate. Deal with these uncomfortable issues as soon as possible.

As a workplace mediator, it is common to be brought into the dispute when it has blown up, and it is at the stage where the employee threatens to walk or litigate. Our advice is that if you notice a conflict between employees, get them to sort it out sooner rather than later and encourage them to find a way to work it out directly with each other.

We often see that a manager has tried to mediate multiple points of view, wearing the mediator’s cap with no solvable outcome. Sometimes despite a manager’s good intentions, it is necessary to bring in professional mediators because it certainly is not easy trying to navigate across multiple types of personalities where each person is coming from a different place, especially if this is outside the manager’s specific area of expertise.

2. Communication is key: 

As a mediator who frequently handles workplace disputes, I have witnessed firsthand the pivotal role that communication plays in achieving positive conflict resolution. To initiate meaningful dialogue, it is crucial to acknowledge the existence of the conflict. When individuals come together to address the issue, each person should be given ample time to express their perspective on the situation.

Equally important is the clear definition and understanding of the needs of all parties involved. Finally, it is essential to remember that this is not the time to engage in attacks or assign blame. By fostering open and constructive communication, the path towards resolution becomes clearer.

3. Listen carefully:

In my experience, listening with empathy to the other person’s needs, thoughts, and beliefs can work miracles. Sometimes a person just needs to be heard to feel valued, and often, this opportunity is not given to them. To actively listen to someone means putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and then paraphrasing what they say to ensure you have understood correctly. This is a challenging thing to do, especially when you have strong divergent viewpoints.

It is, however, worth the effort because when people feel understood, their need to hold onto their position in the conflict can dissipate, and a path toward understanding and agreement can be paved.

4. Find agreement: 

During the process of resolving conflicts, your conversations will naturally centre around the issues at hand. We commonly feel a strong urge to prove that we are right and the other person is wrong—a win/lose mentality. However, it’s essential to recognise that a genuine resolution often arises when both parties find common ground. Rather than focusing solely on differences, take the opportunity to discuss shared interests and values.

By actively looking for these commonalities, you can foster understanding and empathy. It’s valuable to share examples where you genuinely see the other person’s point of view. This approach promotes agreement and demonstrates a genuine willingness to rebuild the relationship on a foundation of shared understanding and cooperation.

5. It may be time to engage an impartial mediator: 

If these strategies are not working, it may be necessary to bring in an impartial mediator to try to restore the working relationship between the conflicting parties. Using a mediator with no allegiance to the organisation means employees are more likely to trust the process and be more willing to engage in the discussions to work towards positive outcomes in the organisation’s best interests.

The mediator’s role is to help the parties identify the issues and the core problems surrounding the dispute, and step by step, with the mediator’s help, they explore options and work towards a resolution that benefits both parties as well as the organisation.


Organisations must promptly and effectively address workplace conflict as it poses a significant challenge. By implementing the tips provided in this blog—dealing with conflicts early, prioritising communication, actively listening, finding common ground, and seeking professional mediation—companies can foster a positive work environment and nurture healthy relationships among team members. In addition, conflict resolution requires understanding, patience, and a genuine desire to find mutually beneficial resolutions.

To truly promote a collaborative and thriving workplace, it is essential for individuals to approach workplace conflict proactively. Embrace open dialogue, acknowledge the existence of conflicts, and work towards resolutions that benefit all parties involved. By investing in conflict resolution strategies, organisations can minimise the negative impact of conflicts, enhance productivity, boost employee satisfaction, and achieve overall success.

Remember, the next time you encounter workplace conflict, be proactive in addressing it, facilitate open communication, and actively seek resolutions that benefit everyone. We can create a harmonious work environment where conflicts are constructively addressed, paving the way for a more collaborative and thriving workplace.