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Employee Conflict & the Manager’s Role: How to Facilitate Resolution


{#/pub/images/EmployeeConflicttheManagersRole.jpg}It is easy to learn how to conduct meetings, find your motivational leadership style and seek ways to engage employees.  However, learning to resolve conflicts takes a bit of know-how and a bit of practice for most people.  Even after the know-how, most people do not relish the chance to resolve a conflict within their team.  


As a first time manager or supervisor, what do you do when faced with an employee conflict that is now your job to help resolve?  


First, take a deep breath, and congratulate yourself.  The fact that your team members are trusting you to resolve their conflict is a huge first step.  Believe it or not, there are many managers that never build that trust and connection, and therefore are not seen as a resource.


Now, on to the good stuff.  Let’s assume you are not directly involved in the conflict.  The conflict is among two people that report to you and one (or both) of them have brought it to your attention.  


Start with hearing each side of the story separately.  Let your team members vent and share what is bugging them and get it off their shoulders.  Often, you will find that being heard is enough for the conflict to resolve itself.  Or, it may fizzle out and they realize they don’t need your support.


Questions to Ask Each Employee One-On-One:

  • What it is they want out of the situation.  

  • What need is not being met?  

  • What are they afraid will happen?  

  • What is there to lose or gain in this scenario?   

The number one reason for conflict is fear.  Helping them understand that emotion, will help them own it and move past it.


At this point, you are just collecting information and trying to understand where each person is coming from.  You are not trying to solve, pick sides, or end the conflict.  Especially as a new manager, it is hard to resist the urge to fix things.


Now that you have both sides, it is time to get both parties in the same room.  Then, armed with the emotions, fears, and details you learned from the private conversations, you ask each person to share what’s going on.  Essentially, you are asking them to hash it out with you again, this time with the other person in the room. 


As the manager, you are going to stay unemotional and unattached to the conflict and be the guide.  If one side gets heated and the other shuts down, ask questions so that they can explain to you what is upsetting them.  


Questions to Keep the Conversation Moving Forward:

  • Is this what you meant? Then give your version.

  • Help me understand what is upsetting you.

  • When you said this, I got confused, can you rephrase it?

The more you work to move the conversation forward and not stall out, the better.  If you can redirect the explanations and emotions toward you in the conversation, things can take a calmer and cooler tone.  Even not making eye contact with the other person is ok when trying to get the conflict aired out.  The idea is to get each party to share their frustrations in a way that the other person can hear and act upon.  


After the conflict is aired, and each party has been heard and understood as much as possible, it is time to set some action steps.  This is not for you, as the leader, to set.  


Questions to Move Your Employees Forward:

  • Ask each party what they are going to do to move forward.  

  • Ask if that suits the other person’s need.  

  • Does it really help resolve the current conflict?  

  • Will it help avoid this same conflict in the future?  

  • If not, dig deeper and find what will help. 

Moving forward from the conflict you are going to focus on the two individuals problem solving and working together.  You are not going to focus on the specific conflict they just had.  Let it go and move forward, and therefore teach them to do the same.  


Conflicts are inevitable as long as you are working with people.  Some seem bigger than others.  However, if there is no conflict whatsoever, I get concerned.  Having some conflict shows that those doing the work are passionate enough about what it is they are doing to get upset when it’s not going the way they think it should.  


Remember, as a new leader, it takes practice to become more comfortable with conflict.  Most people do not ever really feel comfortable with conflict.  Look at it as an opportunity to build connection and communication within your team!



{#/pub/images/EmilieShoop2014.jpg}Written by Emilie Shoop, Creator and Leader of Shoop Training & Consulting A sought after Coach, Mompreneur, Strategist, Mentor, Speaker, Author, Trainer & Business Consultant, Emilie works with people who are ready for that next level of success, and realize how they work with people is KEY.  Her coaching will help you lead, delegate, sell, collaborate, perform, influence, and relate with people to launch your success to the next level. She provides clients, teams and organizations the skills and tools for leadership and professional excellence.



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