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10 Steps to Better Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is an inevitable aspect of leadership. These steps from career coach Sandy Aquino will help you navigate even the most challenging situations. 


Sandy Aquino


Conflict resolution is an inevitable aspect of leadership. Having the skills needed to address conflicts allows you to get everyone back to work quickly, minimize distraction, and mitigate any production impact. 


Here are the ten steps I've used to resolve conflicts for over 30 years: 


1. Stop the argument and move it to a private location where those involved can sit down and regain their composure.


2. Advise them that you will initially act as an objective third-party facilitator and will not take sides or render an opinion until the conversation is over and both parties have been heard. 


3. Lay out your ground rules: 


  • The conversation will remain confidential. 
  • Each person gets a chance to speak uninterrupted. 
  • The conversation will remain professional. 

Advise each participant to keep the conversation specific to how the incident made them feel and why. Do not allow one participant to negate the feelings of another. If a participant is unruly, excuse the other and immediately address and potentially discipline the observed conduct. 


4. Once the first participant has spoken, allow the other to respond uninterrupted. 


5. Once both parties have spoken, facilitate any necessary apologies. 


6. Have each participant share how they will change their behavior to avoid any further incidents. If one is unwilling to change their behavior, excuse the other and immediately address and potentially discipline the observed conduct. 


7. Thank each of them for their participation in resolving the situation. Share your observations and next steps. Remind them that this conversation is to remain confidential. You can decide if a handshake is appropriate.


8. Decide if either person needs additional time to compose themselves or gather their thoughts before returning to work. 


10. If others ask about the situation, do not share details.  Instead, respond simply with, “it’s been handled,” “it’s taken care of,” or something similar. 


Uphold the confidentiality of the participants, just as you have instructed them to do. This is crucial for building trust not only with those involved in the conversation but also with the rest of your staff, peers, and those above you. It demonstrates that you will also keep their confidence when it matters, which helps you build a reputation of integrity and creates loyalty.


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