Nine Steps to Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

No matter how smoothly a business runs, it will see conflict from time to time. The goal of every employee and manager should be to resolve those conflicts in the most peaceful and positive way possible while keeping policy and the workforce intact. Applying Mahatma Gandhi’s nine steps to nonviolent conflict resolution to modern living, writer Coleman McCarthy has developed steps to conflict resolution that work not only for the combatants themselves, but also for a manager seeking peaceful and successful resolutions to workplace conflict.

The Heart of the Matter

First, get to the heart of the matter, and objectively define what the conflict is. In many arguments, the co-workers are actually fighting about different issues. There is no way to resolve a conflict without knowing what it truly is.

The Losing Side

See the conflict as the combatants fighting against the problem collaboratively, not between each other. If the resolution involves one employee emerging victorious over the other, the losing side will not consider the conflict over and will wait for an opportune time in the future to start the rematch.

Shared Goals

Itemize the concerns and needs shared by the combatants and try to focus on those, rather than on what is dividing them. In a workplace environment, employees have many shared goals and concerns. Highlighting those will strengthen their relationship.

Asking Questions

Ask each combatant what he or she did instead of asking what happened. The latter will merely open the floodgates of self-serving justification, but the former will be answered with facts. This offers clarification instead of a prolonged argument.


Try hard to listen actively, rather than just hear passively. This is the only way to discover each stance in the conflict. If the combatants are too busy talking to listen, resting only to breathe and re-arm, the conflict will escalate.

Neutral Territory

Resolve the conflict in a neutral place, not where the battle raged. For instance, if the conflict occurred in a person’s office, take the resolution to the break room.

Achievable Goals

Start the resolution process with what is achievable. In other words, don’t overshoot your mark by trying to resolve a smorgasbord of issues. In many cases, it was a small affront that set the adversarial stage.


Learn how to forgive. Vengeance concentrates on the past, but forgiveness focuses on the future.

Looking at Yourself

Put your own house in order before you start instructing other people how to act or live their lives. Nothing creates conflict like hypocrisy or a holier-than-thou attitude.