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Resolving Employee Conflict


Author: Sarah A Scala, M. Ed & OD, ACC
Reading Time: 3 Minutes

 In 2018, Sarah Scala Consulting partnered with MindEdge Learning as a subject matter expert on Team Creativity, Innovation, and Employee Performance. I was interviewed to produce video content about specific topics that were incorporated into their online learning courses for MindEdge’s clients. This is part of a blog series about this project.  

For the course on Difficult Conversations at Work, I was given scenarios about workplace situations that managers, leaders, and human resources professionals would need to resolve. In this blog, I share best practices for how to handle employee conflicts.  

To manage conflict between employees or co-worker complaints, first schedule a private, face-to-face meeting quickly after the incident. With many employees working virtually, a video call meeting is often a great approach. As a leader, you want to defuse the situation and provide honest feedback about what's been shared with you. Listen first to understand the situation, before making judgments.

Talk to the employee about the unacceptable behavior, and take care not to make any personal attacks on who the employee is as a person. Always focus on the behavior. Take the time to review the code of conduct and share the business impact of their behavior. Some business impacts include turnover, unprofessional communication, and yelling, which are all not great for the business. Share your expectations of performance and that these types of behaviors are unacceptable.

Design an improvement plan that includes training for conflict resolution and possibly coaching to help the employee correct their behavior.

One tool we use to teach about conflict resolution is the Thomas Kilman Conflict Instrument.

Furthermore, meeting just once is often ineffective. It is important to schedule follow-up meetings so that the employee can feel supported as they're moving through a change in their behavior. It is also a good idea to meet more than once so that you can stay on top of how they are doing with implementing this change. Lastly, it's important to document these occurrences in writing.

Check out my short video on Diffusing Employee Conflict 


What tips can you share about resolving workplace conflicts? Comment below.

Questions? Let’s connect. I would love to hear your success stories. Please send them to: or visit

Meet the Author: Sarah Scala

A dynamic consultant, coach, and educator, Sarah Scala provides organization and leadership development, executive coaching, succession planning, change management, public speaking facilitation, and team development solutions. Her work transforms performance of executives, leaders, and teams, helping them reach their highest potential. She supports US-based and global clients across cultures, generations, geographies, and diverse industries.

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