HR Tip of the Week

Posted on  |  Performance management

How to Help Employees Resolve Disagreements

Every workplace is comprised of individuals with different backgrounds, work habits, values and ideas. While these differences can bring unique perspectives and other advantages, they may also result in occasional conflicts among employees. Add the stress and obstacles created by difficult times, such as the ongoing pandemic, and the likelihood of these disagreements can increase. If left ignored, disputes in the workplace can have a negative impact on employees and the business, so it is important to have a plan for addressing them. Here are some guidelines that can help resolve these situations.

General best practices:

  • Set expectations and encourage teamwork. While some disagreement in the workplace is inevitable, you can take steps to help reduce the likelihood of it turning into a problem. To help, clarify rules and expectations, clearly define roles and goals, give employees the tools and training they need to succeed in their job, and facilitate team-building activities.
  • Provide training. Consider providing conflict-resolution training to employees, so they are better equipped to resolve disputes. Focus on effective communication and problem-solving skills via role-playing scenarios.
  • Maintain open communication. Provide multiple avenues for employees to report problems when they are unable to resolve them on their own. Maintain an open-door policy and encourage employees to come to you with any concerns. Additionally, check in with employees regularly to see how they are doing.
  • Know when to step in. You may want to intervene before a disagreement becomes toxic or potentially damaging to your team, projects or the business. Two employees who refuse to talk to each other over a work conflict can significantly hurt productivity and negatively impact other employees.
  • Identify the underlying issue between employees. For basic work disagreements, you may ask the employees involved to try to work it out themselves or facilitate a conflict-resolution meeting (see below). However, if the issue involves sexual harassment, discrimination, or other misconduct, you should launch a more formal investigation.

Guidelines for conducting conflict-resolution meetings:

If the issue isn't related to misconduct and you decide that the situation requires intervention, consider the following guidelines:

  • Meet with the employees. At the start of the meeting, explain that the goal is to resolve the dispute between the employees. Set ground rules, such as allowing the other side to tell their story without interruption. Encourage employees to view the situation from the other's perspective and to make resolution the priority. During the meeting, be impartial and treat all parties with respect.
  • Ask employees to describe the issue. When eliciting the details of the conflict, ask employees to focus on the present problem (not the person) and to identify their underlying concerns, feelings and needs. Once you have this basic information, frame the issues in neutral terms and highlight areas where the employees agree.
  • Ask employees to develop possible solutions. When appropriate, encourage employees involved in the conflict to collaborate on a solution. This can result in increased commitment from both sides. If collaboration doesn't work, encourage employees to consider a compromise. In some cases, the facilitator may need to identify a solution.
  • Make a plan. Once a solution has been identified, outline the actions required from each party. If you are the facilitator, your role is to provide guidance, ask questions to ensure the plan is effective and feasible, and document the plan.
  • Monitor and evaluate. After the meeting, follow up with both parties individually to monitor progress and evaluate whether the plan has successfully resolved the conflict. If the plan wasn't successful or created other conflicts, then identify and evaluate other possible solutions.


Take appropriate steps to prevent and resolve employee disputes early on. The goal is find productive outcomes with minimal impact to your business. Keep in mind that in some cases, you may need to consult a third-party for help or additional guidance.

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