3 Bias-Free Conflict Resolution Strategies


Whenever a group of people gathers to work toward a common goal, conflict is inevitable. Each employee is unique, and it’s this uniqueness that gives voice to differing opinions and ideas.

Unfortunately, there’s no one or consistently “right” way to handle conflict. Each situation is different and requires the appropriate response to prevent the issue from spiraling out of control.

When conflict arises, the most common human reaction, or ‘default’ reaction is to prove the other party wrong instead of trying to determine the root cause of the problem.

In this blog, we’ll go over 3 bias-free conflict resolution strategies that should help you diffuse tensions in the workplace.

Stop Avoiding Conflict

The first step is to acknowledge that within any group of people working together, conflict will eventually occur. Each manager or supervisor has a different way of dealing with conflict in the workplace. Unfortunately, the most common approach involves simply ignoring the issue altogether and letting those involved deal with  the problem themselves. This approach produces less than desirable results.

Managers typically avoid addressing  conflict amongst team members because they don’t have the tools or verbiage to help make things better. This is not a productive reaction to the situation and predictably  results in having things escalate. Letting the issue drag on unaddressed will inevitably result in decreased productivity,  low  employee  morale, and commonly leads to heightened confrontations that negatively impact the business as a whole.

Silence equals permission, and managers that refuse to acknowledge conflict often end up dealing with a hostile workplace lawsuit. This is such a travesty since the vast majority of these situations can be resolved by following some basic steps on conflict resolution.

According to Forbes, understanding the nature of conflict in the workplace and being  comfortable  in  tackling it head-on is an essential  skill  set  for  successful  managers.

Set the Ground Rules to Address Problems

When someone feels as though they’re being disrespected or harassed,  they usually respond by threatening to quit, or even forewarn litigation for a hostile work environment. Such emotionally driven reactions ratchet up the tension and make it increasingly difficult to amiably resolve the situation. That is why it is imperative to address conflict as early as possible, before it escalates into a situation that is not salvageable.

It is critically important for the manager to focus on diffusing the emotions, and actively listen to all parties. It should be clearly communicated to your team that you expect everyone to be able to address concerns in a professional manner with the agreed upon goal that everyone can work together in a positive environment.

The ground rules need to  be clearly  outlined  that there are to  be  no raised voices, and challenge everyone to address the situation in a calm, professional way, with no emotional outbursts. If you have a member of your team that is unable to do that, chances are they will continue to be an on-going source of friction and you should seriously consider terminating them  as  quickly  as  possible.

A terrific way to help people feel their concerns are being heard is to have the other person repeat back what they understand the primary issues are. Give everyone involved the opportunity to outline their issues, and then give the floor to the other people involved and have them reiterate what they have heard. This will go a long way towards coming to a resolution.

The Harvard Law School has an illuminating article on how to address conflict in the workplace.

Offer Constructive Suggestions

There are a myriad of conflicts that may arise when people work together. Internal conflicts can range from feeling disrespected, to having someone take credit for someone else’s work, to uneven  workloads,  to  sexual harassment. Some issues are more black and white than others,  but all issues will gain from having a respectful, open dialog addressing the problems.

So how do you tackle the situation without creating feelings of resentment and betrayal? The  ultimate  goal should be to have everyone feel that their concerns have been addressed, diffusing the situation.

An interesting fact is that when people have a problem and are able to address it and come up with a resolution, the team will actually  gain  from  the  experience,  and  will  eventually  feel more cohesive and bonded.

The role of a manager should be to allow everyone to share their concerns in a safe, non-confrontational environment. Often times there will be a clear solution, and then the issue is if the agitator is willing or able to change their behavior. After everyone has had a chance to speak their peace, offer the inciter the chance to share how he or she is willing to change their behavior. If they are unable or unwilling to clearly outline ways in which they will change their behavior, clearly outline for them what needs to change. Remember that egos often get involved and it is common for someone to feel defensive. Make a point to praise everyone involved, pointing out positive attributes and how they contribute to the team  as  a  whole.

Focus on the benefit of resolving the issue and moving forward.

At this point the role of the manager is to monitor the situation and hold the  provocateur accountable to sticking to their agreement to stop whatever behavior was causing the conflict.  Be sure to periodically check in with the offended party, to make sure that they are feeling better with the situation. Make no mistake that no news is good news. Putting your head in the sand and just assuming that by not hearing anything everything is going great  is  a  dangerous  gamble. Many a manager has been surprised by an employee who quits or even worse  files  a  hostile workplace suit because they were reluctant to check in with everyone to ensure that the conflict has truly been resolved.

According to an article published by Alvernia University, actively addressing employee concerns by managers leads to professional employee development, improved working relationships, and most importantly, overall job  satisfaction  and  organizational growth.


Being able to hold employees accountable and addressing conflict are the top 2 factors in being an effective manager. Learning these skills early in your leadership  capacity will benefit everyone in your team.

Everyone deserves to have a work environment that is pleasant and free of conflict. It is the responsibility of the team leader to ensure that you offer a respectful, professional work environment for all employees, regardless of their seniority  or  level  within  the  company.

For  those  situations  where  you  identify  an  employee  that  is  not  able  to  work  well  with  others, replacing  them  as  quickly  as  possible  is  critical  to  maintaining  a  positive  company  culture.

Keep in  mind  that the  #1  reason  why  good  employees  leave  their  job  is  because  of  a  negative  work  environment.  When  the  problem  employee  is  in  a  managerial  role, he  or she  can literally  have  a  negative  impact  on  your  entire  company.

International  Search  Consultants  has  been  a  leader  in  executive  recruiting  since  1999.  Please  feel  free  to  reach  out  to  us  today  to  create  your  ideal  candidate  profile,  and  to  start  a  good  flow  of  qualified  candidates  for  your  review.

Ann  Zaslow-Rethaber  is  President  of  ISC  and  can  be  reached  directly  at  888-866-7276  or  via  e-mail  at 

Kim  Garrison  is  ISC’s  Team  Lead  for  Texas  Banking  Recruiters,  and  can  be  reached  via  direct  dial  at    800-270-3974  or  email  at