Effective Conflict Resolution in the Workplace


Conflict can and will arise in any work place, over a wide range of issues and concerns, but it is the way that you as an employer approach that conflict that will determine whether the outcomes of the situation are positive or negative for your business. Conflict can sometimes bring about positive change, but in order for this to happen you must handle the situation correctly to resolve the issues involved and reinstate unity within the workplace.

 Conflict Resolution Methods:

Revered experts in corporate change and conflict resolution Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann have identified five distinct approaches to conflict resolution that vary in their levels of productiveness and long-term effects on the business . Thomas and Kilmann believe that every employer has a conflict resolution style that falls in to one of the below categories. They have developed the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) which helps you to recognise your own style of conflict resolution and reflect upon the level of effectiveness of your approach.

The categories that Thomas and Kilmann defined are:

Competitive: Employer dominantly approaches conflict between employees by expressing their position of power to dictate outcome. This can be productive when an urgent critical decision is required or when defending the organisation against unwarranted behaviour. However this approach is not productive in non-urgent or non-detrimental situations, as it can leave employees feeling dissatisfied, unappreciated and unheard.

Collabative: The collaborative employer tries to appease the needs of all parties involved, but can still do this in an assertive manner.  As opposed to the competitive mediator, they cooperate effectively and acknowledge that everyone’s opinion is important. This approach is especially effective when collaboration is required from employees in order to come to a solution.

Compromising: This style of mediator is the employer that encourages each party involved to make some form of compromise in order to agree on a solution. This approach is most effective when the cost of the conflict (to the organisation) outweighs the cost of the elements being compromised.

Accommodating: This cooperative, non-assertive mediator meets the wishes of other parties involved, but sometimes to their own detriment. They identify when to give in to the wishes of others, but can often be swayed to surrender in situations where the employee’s stance is not warranted.  This approach is occasionally productive when the issue is of substantial significance to an employee, but overall this approach is not in the best interest of your business.

Avoiding: The evasive employer avoids any attempts at mediation and does not participate in a conflict resolution process. This employer constantly delegates controversial decisions, and readily accepts default positions. This approach can on rare occasions be effective when mediation is futile or the conflict is of a trivial nature, or when the reach of the conflict is outside of their control and another unrelated party must be assigned to mediate, but more than often this approach is ineffective and is not of benefit to the business.

It is important to be able to be aware of your own style of mediation and to know when to take a different approach.

Once you understand when to implement a particular mediation approach, here are a few other points to consider:

  • Prioritise the sustainability of good business relationships: Always be courteous and considerate, and encourage all employees to do the same.
  • Separate fact from fiction: Bring yourself up to speed on the background of the dispute and consider the facts and evidence
  • Consider the intent of the interests being presented:  Listen carefully to each employee’s views and try to understand where they are coming from.
  • Listen before speaking: You must first ‘hear out’ all parties before you can offer an opinion, pass judgement, or suggest a solution.
  • Avoid personalisation: Try not to associate the person with the problem, and do not make any personal remarks.
  • Encourage open, explorative discussion: Accept that often a joint decision is required to achieve a desirable outcome.

For further information about the Thomas Kilmann Method you can visit their website:


or please contact the Resurg group for further information