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The minimalist guide to conflict resolution

Reading Time: 3.5 minutes

4 steps to getting it resolved!

  • Step 1: Take your head out of the sand, and learn to recognise the triggers.
  • Step 2: Keep your cool, get out of the “drama cycle” and become the observer.
  • Step 3: Resolve the conflict swiftly, and strive for win-win.
  • Step 4: Pre-empt arising problems, and prevent as many conflict situations as you can.

That’s it. Perfectly short and punchy for minimalists.



For those who prefer more details and real insights, let me elaborate on these 4 steps.

Conflict is inevitable in business and can destroy relationships and good teamwork. When conflict is not being managed promptly, it can very quickly deteriorate and negatively affect communication and productivity. Research shows that 60-80% of all difficulties in organisations come from strained relationships between employees, not from deficits in individual employee’s skill or motivation. On average, 3.2 days per worker are lost each year due to workplace stress often originating from unresolved conflicts. So, you do the maths what that means for your own team!

In old times, conflicts were resolved by storming each other’s castles. We used catapults, arrows, even boiling oil. Fortunately, we came a long way since then, but just like back then, emotions during conflict situations are still running high, and there are unfortunately many casualties. So, here are the 4 simple steps to effectively resolving conflict:

Step 1 – Conflict Triggers

Conflict is defined as a difference of values, wants, needs, or expectations. The workplace is a diverse environment involving people with all of the above differences, and as a result, conflicts may naturally occur. The issue is not whether conflicts exist but rather how we deal with them or what happens when they are not appropriately addressed.

The most common reasons for workplace conflict are of interpersonal nature, structural conflicts, goal misalignment, mutual department dependence, role dissatisfaction, dependence on scarce resources, and communication problems.

Too often we are in denial, when it comes to conflict. We pretend that everything is okay, even if it’s not and hope the conflict will miraculously disappear by doing nothing. Well, we all know that this is not the case. It is your duty as a manager to recognise the signs early, acknowledge that there is a conflict and get the conversation started. The problem is not to HAVE the conversation; the problem is NOT to have the conversation.

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Step 2 – Conflict Composure

You can’t handle a conflict situation successfully when you have steam coming out of your ears. For a positive conflict management outcome, it is crucial that you keep calm and in control 100% of the time. The first step to this is to appreciate positive intention of other people’s behaviours, because we all do the best with the resources we have available at the time. If we could do better, we would.

During a conflict, we often step into the roles of either the aggressor, the victim or the rescuer. We therefore become part of the problem, because none of the three possess a win-win mindset. Their perspective is based on personal opinion, assumptions, feelings, emotions, beliefs, etc.


Professional Development Leadership Skills - Drama Cycle - Conflict Resolution - Conflict Management

1Courage & Control to stand up for self
2Compassion & Connection for/with others

The key for a manager in conflict resolution is to get out of the ‘Drama Cycle’, and to be the observer. The observer sees things in an objective way, a perspective based on observation and measurable facts. The less you are emotionally involved in the disagreement, the less defensive and the more productive and smooth the process will be from your end.

 “If you are not part of the solution,  you are part of the problem.”
~ Eldridge Cleaver


Step 3 – Conflict Resolution

To resolve a conflict, a difficult but necessary conversation is essential. This is how you can structure it to ensure a successful outcome:

  • Create an agreement frame, similar to ‘Rules of engagement’. These rules can be set up with questions to ensure we create accountability in all parties involved, for example: “Is it okay if we have an open mind throughout the conversation?”
  • Think win-win, the only positive and sustainable option if we want to succeed. It involves the need for courage to stand up for ourselves, and equally have compassion for the other person. Listening is key - as Epictetus said: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
  • Begin with the end in mind. Focus on what people involved in the conflict actually want to get out of the situation. In other words, focus on the big picture and what common goals there are. When people in a conflict situation realise that what they want is ultimately the same thing and that they have more in common then they realised, they will be willing to work together. This is a great starting point to move forward.
  • Follow up. Don’t assume everything is hunky-dory if you don’t hear anything back. Maintain the conversation and build strong relationships for the future.

Unsuccessful managers often interpret negotiating win-win outcomes for all parties as “losing” or as “being weak”. But in reality, win-win is the best long-term management strategy you can apply.

Step 4 – Conflict Prevention

When the disagreement is resolved, it is time to move on. Dwelling on past differences does not lead to productive results; in fact it will only hold everybody back and most likely create new differences and disagreements. Follow the saying ‘water under the bridge’; so once a disagreement is resolved, everybody needs to let go and move on!

You are an influential person and play an important part in the professional lives of your team members. Setting a positive example includes professionally and maturely abiding to company ground rules, and therefore condemn and sanction anybody breaking those rules, regardless of the nature of the dispute. Ground rules might include professional demeanour, use of appropriate language, good communication style, honesty, etc.

You as the leader take a great leap to manage a conflict, no matter the source. The best prevention is to teach your employees the strategies in this blog post, so conflicts can be tackled at their source.

PS: If you prefer to get even further insights into this topic, make sure you sign up for our FREE video series. Here is the link: https://profoundleadership.com.au/yoursuccess/


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