6 Ways a Leader Can Mediate Team Conflict

By Dan Toombs

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

Conflict is probably unavoidable when you’re working with others.

People have different points of view. Under the right circumstances, these differences escalate to conflict. How you deal with this conflict determines whether it helps the team or contributes to its demise.

But as a leader, you are likely to devote more of your time to things like profitability and deadlines than conflict resolution.

Mediators must act responsibly to be respected. Leadership is a major responsibility that involves developing and guiding the full potential of teams and the organization.

An important part of the growth process is learning how to handle conflict and where to take the opportunity within the conflict before healthy tension transforms into disruptive turmoil. If not handled properly, conflict makes people angry and adversely affects creativity and productivity.

Effective mediation skills are a key tool for any leader. And yet this business skill has been taught to few:

Here are some ways to deal with conflict resolution at work.

1. Correct Timing

People sometimes create needless conflicts. Leaders who prevent conflict at all costs will later find that they regret it. Conflict management is about timing. The best time to take action is when there is hard evidence that an employee has a track record of misbehavior that has a negative impact on others.

If you wait too long in times of conflict, those around you will begin to make the decisions that you have been unwilling to make, and you will lose momentum as a leader when others see that you’re not mature enough to act as a leader, that puts your reputation at risk.

If everyone around you knows an issue has to be dealt with, and you’re still waiting to act, you’ll lose respect among the team. Leadership is about tackling the issues before it’s too late.

2. Clarify Positions

Allow each member of the conflicting team to express their opinions on the conflict and to be heard without interruption. Listen actively, pay attention, ask questions for more detail, and make sure you do not jump to conclusions.

Permitting each member of the team to explain and clarify their position eliminates the problem of miscommunication. In fact, encouraging them to rationalize their views can result in more consensus and understanding on the part of other team members.

3. List the Evidence and Assumptions Based on Each Position

Once each member of the conflicting team has been allowed to explain their position, list the facts and statements that have been made.

The mere act of writing down the complex facets of the argument, visually depicting it on paper, and examining all the information at hand as a group can make things that seemed impossible to understand much clearer to the team.

If one member of the team lacks a justification for their position as far as the conflict is concerned, this will often become apparent during this step. Sometimes team members simply need to have their hesitation heard and discussed by the rest of the team.

The team will step forward in the agreement or at least reach some form of consensus to work with by discussing the cause of disagreement together as a group.

4. Separate Existing Alliances and Split into Smaller Groups

Over time, friendships naturally develop in the workplace, and while they are useful for increasing work engagement, happiness, and efficiency as a whole, they can cloud the judgments of team members in determining what the right course of action is to take.

Co-workers may feel the need to compromise with each other because they are afraid of losing their friendship. By breaking these existing alliances when discussing the resolution, you can avoid this behavior and allow each member of the team to see the conflict free from the persuasion of their friendships, whether implicit or explicit.

5. Reconcile the Groups

It’s much easier to resolve a team dispute after these steps have been taken and the team works as a whole again. After smaller groups have been allowed to freely discuss issues from every angle and free from the persuasion of existing alliances, points of view often change, which resolves the initial conflict.

When the team comes to a definitive decision, make it a priority to write down a list of actionable steps that should be taken to fix the problem. Putting the result on paper makes the solution more concrete and provides a comparison point for those who want to revisit the team’s position on the issue.

6. Celebrate the Resolution as a Squad

Once the conflict has been resolved, acknowledge specific contributions from the individuals involved. This will make them feel good about working towards a solution and will make the whole team more cohesive because of their united victory against the stumbling block they faced together.

Whether it’s a small celebration like a good luck email or something else like an afternoon off, the recognition of success promotes team bonding. The trick is to praise staff regularly for taking a wise approach to their dispute in such a way that it is second nature to them every time it occurs.

How Can Leaders Mediate Team Conflict?

If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Dan Toombs
Dan Toombs
Dan Toombs serves as a legal partner of Mediations Australia and is preferred among the best family law mediation. He is appreciated not just for his legal expertise, but also for his ability to assist clients with critical decisions regarding their family matters.
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