Solve 90% of conflict – Keep people talking

When I work with leaders I often ask the question: What’s compromising performance and productivity in your business?

Destructive conflict within the team, with colleagues, with other teams, with customers or with suppliers is almost always mentioned. It costs the organisation a lot of time and money, creates stress for everyone involved and inevitably damages relationships.

Occasionally the conflict is so intense and difficult that it requires a highly skilled mediator to resolve it.  However 90% of workplace clashes can usually be sorted out by a skilled manager playing the role of “Manager as Mediator”.  Without oversimplifying this role, if you can get people together and keep them talking, 90% of issues will sort themselves out.

As a manager you need to explain to each person involved that the conflict is damaging the business (for example lowering team morale, damaging client service, wasting time, compromising decisions etc.) and that they need to get together to come up with some solutions.

There are essentially four steps in playing Manager as Mediator:

Step 1: Clearly define the business issue (how the conflict is hurting the business)
Step 2: Meet separately with each person to explain your concern, gain an understanding of their perspective and set up a time for a three way meeting. Spell out that you want the participants to talk through the issues for as long as it takes, without resorting to threatening behaviours.
Step 3: Facilitate the three-way meeting, ensuring:

  • The parties don’t walk away or resort to threats or aggressive behaviour.
  • You support any “conciliatory gestures” made during the discussion by either party.
  • You capture what has been agreed in writing.
Step 4: Follow up to ensure the participants are living up to their commitments.


And that’s it. Keep them talking long enough and the participants will come up with the solutions.

For those of you who may be interested, I am running two ‘open’ conflict management training programs in the next few months:

  • On Thursday 4 April  I will be running a one day workshop in the Sydney CBD with Forrest Training on “Managing Workplace Clashes”. We are limiting the workshop to 12 participants so if you’d like to come along let me know. A course outline is attached. The focus of this program is teaching managers mediation skills to assist them be more effective on the job. [Download Managing Workplace Clashes Course Outline]
  • On 16 and 17 June I will be running a two day workshop with MGSM at their Ryde Campus on “Managing Workplace Conflict”. In addition to teaching mediation skills, this program will assist leaders develop their own conflict management skills. We will limit numbers to 16 to ensure participants have a great experience. For more information on that program see the attached brochure [Download Managing Workplace Conflict Brochure].

Don’t hesitate to email me if you’d like to attend either of the programs or if you would to discuss an in-house program. And of course let me know if you have any questions.

Have a great week.

Mark Rosenberg