Conflict arises in every type of small business organization at some point in time. In fact, small businesses that encourage close interaction and collaboration between colleagues can foster frustrations much like those that arise in a family. The key to resolving conflict and settling disagreements equitably is in maintaining a professional attitude at all times.


Regardless of the type of conflict that presents itself, maintaining an environment of respect, in spite of differences, is vital to sustaining a professional work environment. Colleagues who listen attentively and respectfully to each other's viewpoints, however different they may be, are better positioned to work through troubling issues and reach a consensus. In no instance should professional individuals resort to name-calling, threats, or undermining work efforts.


In the event conflict cannot be effectively resolved between feuding parties, a third-party mediator can help maintain a professional relationship. Dispute mediation involves an impartial individual, such as a manager or human resources representative, weighing the disagreements of colleagues, and working to reach an agreeable resolution. This approach can help diffuse the current situation, and can also serve as an example of how professional workplace problem-solving should be handled in the future.


Compromise is a professional, effective way to resolve conflict in the workplace. A compromise essentially involves give and take between feuding parties, often overseen by a mediator. A compromise settlement allows conflicted colleagues the opportunity to maintain their professional position on a matter while creating an equitable and respectful agreement.

Assessment and Counseling

Unprofessional levels of conflict that arise repeatedly over the same issues, or between the same parties, requires additional action. Regular performance reviews can help managers identify potential problem employees, and employee surveys and focus groups can help pinpoint specific areas of workplace contention. Using this information, managers can make informed staffing decisions and reevaluate workplace policies and procedures. Both actions can help reduce overall conflict levels while maintaining a professional environment.

Conflict Prevention

While some degree of conflict is inevitable in any small business, steps toward conflict prevention can help keep problems from significantly disrupting the workplace. Develop formal conflict mediation and resolution policies, and train employees on resolution skills through role-playing exercises. Encourage employees to work through differences with respect, and clearly define office policies and procedures to reduce “gray areas” that have the potential to initiate conflict.

Conflict Avoidance Workshops

Professionally-conducted conflict resolution workshops can give employees the skills and knowledge they need to better avert workplace conflict, or resolve it quickly when it arises. This information can also be a valuable resource when dealing with conflict related to customers and clients. Employees who have the skills to negotiate, compromise, and approach conflict with respect can help ensure that their company maintains a professional reputation.