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9 Tips for Diffusing Employee Conflict

By: Charlotte Couch
Oct 20, 2020 • 7 min read

9 Tips for Diffusing Employee Conflict During Tense Situations

Whether you work as a server in a restaurant or an accountant at a law firm, you will find that the work environment can get tense and hostile from time to time. Anything from a lunch rush to an upcoming deadline can stir up people’s emotions and tempers. At times, this increased stress can cause a rift between employees. While there’s almost a certain guarantee that your co-workers will disagree with one another at some point, there are still numerous ways you can defuse these uncomfortable situations. Here are 9 tips you can follow to successfully diffuse employee conflict at work.

employee conflicts

1. Learn How to Manage Your Timing

Some managers are tempted to end an ongoing employee conflict as soon as possible. Others will avoid addressing the situation until it is completely unavoidable or after the coworkers resolve it themselves. Neither option is likely to end well. By attempting to rush the process of resolving a conflict, you might miss out on learning important details of the situation. As a result, you might end up favoring one side over the other or proposing a solution that will fail to offer any long-term help. On the other hand, dragging out the process can make it seem that you are attempting to avoid the situation or simply do not care about the conflict. This can frustrate your employees and lead them to believe that you have no interest in building a safe work environment.

2. Address the Situation Directly

While the idea of dealing with employee conflict directly sounds uncomfortable, it is necessary for bringing back a positive atmosphere to the office. To start, you should schedule one-on-one meetings to talk with each employee privately. This will give them the chance to clarify the situation. Until now, you probably only heard rumors and gossip from other co-workers. But to gain a full grasp of the situation, you need to find out what really happened from each team member involved in the situation. You don’t have to turn the “investigation” into a witch hunt. You want your employees to feel comfortable talking to you about their conflict. After discussing it, you might find that the situation is not as big or dramatic as everyone initially thought. On the other hand, you might find that the situation is much more complex than you expected.

employee conflicts

3. Listen to Both Sides of the Conflict

You will want to practice active listening when each party speaks. Active listening involves looking directly at the speaker, paying attention to their body language, summarizing the big points they’re making, and avoiding judgment. Keep these attributes in mind as each employee talks. Carefully listening to what they have to say will help you determine a proper solution to their work issue.

4. Encourage the Feuding Coworkers to Talk it Out

At some point, the two employees need to talk out their issues. Bringing them together to discuss the situation will allow them to discuss their feelings and how they can move forward from it. While they talk, you can act as a mediator between them.

employee conflicts

5. Don’t Play the Blame Game

Speaking of being a mediator, you should try to avoid placing blame on anyone during the conflict. To other employees, it might look like you’re picking favorites or acting biased. When talking to each employee, you should avoid using accusatory or leading statements. Instead of encouraging them to open up, these statements can make them uncomfortable or even unwilling to discuss the situation with you.

6. Focus on Building a Better Future Together

Once everyone has finished talking through their feelings, it’s time to figure out how to move forward from this situation. Maybe you have one employee who feels like they are being buried in work while their counterpart seemingly enjoys slow-paced workdays. This can stir up resentment in the former employee. Delegating the employee’s tasks to other supporting team members or even encouraging more collaboration between the two employees can help them succeed in the workplace.

employee conflicts

7. Practicing Your Communication Skills

Poor communication often leads to workplace conflict. Learning how to better communicate with team members can also defuse conflict while preventing it from occurring in the future. Maybe your employees need to understand the “why” behind a task you’re assigning them. Or they feel that you’re not listening to their concerns. To learn what you’re employees need from you, you can set up occasional one-on-one meetings to cultivate your relationship with them. Communication is the key to diffusing employee conflict.

8. Invest in Preventing Future Workplace Conflicts

Most people probably prefer preventing workplace conflicts rather than attempting to defuse them during a busy workday. By building a more positive work environment and encouraging clear communication skills among team members, you can prevent problems from developing in the future.

You can do this by:

  • Scheduling regular check-ins with employees
  • Offering learning opportunities
  • Recognizing people’s hard work during staff meetings
  • Engaging in random acts of kindness

employee conflicts

9. Look Into Conflict Management Training Programs

Conflict management doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Some managers might try to defuse a situation by ignoring it. Or they might find themselves taking sides and forgetting to listen to different sides of the story. By doing this, they fail to gain a complete understanding of the situation. If you are one of these people, you might benefit from taking a conflict management course. These courses can teach you how to identify workplace conflicts, attempt effective problem-solving approaches, and take the reins on starting challenging conversations between employees.


Working with others can be both fun and stressful. As social beings, we typically flourish and thrive when working with like-minded people. But unfortunately, humans aren’t designed to get along with each other 24/7. At some point, you will probably find yourself faced with a situation where you need to diffuse a tense situation between your employees.

More to Explore: 

  • Building Trust With Co-Workers – Here 
  • Your Favorite Co-Worker Quit. Now What?! – Here 
  • How to Talk Politics in The Workplace – Here 

What methods have you used in the past to diffuse employee conflict? Did they work? Let us know on our social media pages!

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