De-escalating a conflict means taking steps to reduce tension, hostility and disagreement between two or more parties. It is an important skill for managers to possess, as it can help smooth out workplace disputes before they escalate into more serious issues. De-escalating a conflict requires understanding the root cause of the problem, listening to both sides and remaining neutral, identifying areas where each side can compromise, encouraging open communication between all involved parties and providing resources if needed. By following these steps, businesses can effectively de-escalate conflicts in their workplace and prevent them from becoming larger issues down the line.

Why you should act quickly

De-escalating conflicts early on is essential for keeping a healthy, productive workplace. When left unchecked, conflict can escalate quickly and create an environment of tension and mistrust between employees. This can lead to decreased productivity, poor morale, and even legal issues if the situation is not handled properly. By de-escalating conflicts as soon as they arise, managers can nip these issues in the bud before they impact the workplace culture. Taking proactive steps to address disagreements between colleagues will help ensure that everyone remains focused on their job tasks without feeling threatened or intimidated by each other’s presence. De-escalation also encourages open communication among employees which helps foster collaboration and understanding in the workplace.

How to de-escalate conflict

It can be hard to determine where to start when dealing with different issues of various severity. By having a clear outline of what solutions can be there, managers can feel more at ease and more comfortable with making decisions.

  • Understand the root cause of the conflict
  • Listen to both sides and remain neutral
  • Identify areas where each side can compromise
  • Set clear boundaries and expectations for future interactions between employees
  • Change communication delivery

Understand the root cause of the conflict

When it comes to de-escalating workplace conflict, one of the most important steps is understanding the root cause of the problem. This can be difficult as oftentimes underlying issues are not readily apparent and may require some digging to uncover. It is important for managers to take a step back and look at the situation objectively in order to determine what is really going on beneath the surface. By doing this, they can then address any deeper issues that might be causing conflict between employees or preventing them from working together effectively. 

 It helps if managers speak with both parties involved in order to get an accurate picture of what happened leading up to the conflict. They should ask questions such as “What do you think caused this disagreement?” or “How could things have been handled differently?” Doing so will help them gain insight into why the problem arose in the first place and how best they can intervene before it gets out of hand. In addition, having each party explain their perspective gives everyone involved a chance to vent their feelings without fear of judgement or retribution while also providing valuable information that can be used when coming up with solutions later on down the line.


Listen to both sides and remain neutral

Another essential action employers need to take when it comes to de-escalating conflicts is being willing to really listen to both sides without passing judgement or taking sides. Taking proactive steps to address disagreements between colleagues quickly requires active listening and engagement from the employer. It is essential that both parties remain open-minded and unbiased so they can view all aspects of the situation objectively without forming any preconceived notions or opinions beforehand. By encouraging open dialogue between both parties, managers can help foster a more collaborative atmosphere in the workplace which is essential for resolving disputes and improving overall morale.

It is also crucial for managers to be aware of their own biases when it comes to de-escalating workplace conflict. Unconscious bias is an issue many workplaces deal with that can take time to be resolved. It is easy to want to side with someone you are familiar with or agree with when it comes to disagreements, but this is not always in the best interest of those involved. Managers should remain impartial throughout the process and strive to identify areas where compromise can be reached. Doing so will help ensure that everyone continues working together harmoniously without any lingering animosity or mistrust between employees. 

Identify areas where each side can compromise

Conflict in the workplace can be incredibly damaging to morale and productivity, so managers need to take steps to de-escalate any disputes that arise as efficiently and effectively as possible. Doing this correctly requires more than just mediating a conversation between two parties – it also involves identifying areas where each side can compromise to come up with a mutually beneficial solution. This process is not always straightforward. Managers must be willing to follow the other steps of actively listening to both sides of the argument, remaining impartial and neutral throughout and then deciding where compromise can be reached to ensure that everyone works together harmoniously. Doing so will help maintain a positive workplace atmosphere and foster collaboration between colleagues.

By following these steps, managers can play a key role in helping improve workplace dynamics by calming tensions when needed and ultimately creating a more productive work environment for all involved. When done correctly, de-escalating conflicts can lead to better communication among employees as well. Try not to directly blame one individual, except if the case is extreme. Rather, try to come to a conclusion and make them see how their actions could have impacted someone on their own if possible. This will allow the employee to take accountability and understand where the other individual is coming from.

Set clear boundaries and expectations for future interactions between employees

Employers need to set clear boundaries and expectations for future interactions between employees, so that any disagreements that arise in the future are addressed in a certain manner. Doing so will help ensure that everyone is aware of what is expected of them and will lead to better communication between colleagues. This can be done through providing employees with written policies regarding workplace behaviour as well as verbal reminders during team meetings or one-on-one conversations.

Managers should also ensure that all parties involved are treated fairly and equally to maintain a level of trust and respect among colleagues. Additionally, they should provide specific guidelines on how conflicts should be handled in the future, such as what steps need to be taken if issues escalate or when it is appropriate to escalate the situation to higher levels of management.

On top of setting boundaries and expectations for interactions between employees, managers should also work on cultivating an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their disagreements in a respectful manner. This means creating an atmosphere where all parties involved feel safe to express their perspectives without feeling like their voice is not being heard or taken into consideration. Managers can do this by actively engaging in conversations with both parties and encouraging them to share their own ideas on what they expect to happen and why.

Employees come from diverse backgrounds and understanding what is acceptable and inappropriate can take time which is why there needs to be a standard when employees interact. If necessary, employers should also offer resources such as counselling services or mediation sessions so that employees have access to additional support if needed. EAP has become very popular in Australia, with many employers using it to protect the mental health of their staff.

 There is another advantage of fostering an environment where collaboration is valued and colleagues handle disputes respectfully. Everyone involved in a disagreement will be able to express their side and perspective while still maintaining a sense of professionalism among team members which ultimately helps create a stronger bond among them going forward. That is why when setting expectations for future interactions between employees it is essential for companies to take into account the needs of each party while striving toward agreement rather than contention – this way everyone remains productive while working together towards common goals.

Change communication delivery

A manager should have the ability to adapt their communication skills in order to effectively de-escalate conflicts that arise within the workplace. Differing personalities and perspectives can lead to disagreements between colleagues, but adapting your communication style according to the specific conflict at hand can be very helpful. Employees will not feel attacked or singled out and they will be more open with talking and sharing their worries and problems.

This will ultimately lead to better collaboration and understanding between employees and a faster resolution. Training on how to improve communication is an excellent strategy that can be used for all employees within an organisation. It will assist employees with not coming off as rude or offensive and teach them how to solve problems on their own in a calm manner.

A few things to remember

Being able to effectively de-escalate conflicts is a useful and much-needed skill for any manager looking to create an effective work environment free from retaliation and hostility. Employees should be informed on what steps they have to take to handle a conflict correctly without letting it impact business operations or the workplace. Sometimes conflict may be so extreme that an investigation is needed to understand the root cause of the problem and what exactly went wrong.

This is where Polonious steps in. We help companies handle conflict complaints and investigations to improve their workplace culture and productivity. Our goal is to manage the complaint process to ensure procedural fairness and that employees feel fairly treated, heard and valued. We streamline most of the tasks so business disruptions are prevented and costs are minimised. We make it easy for companies to investigate complaints and handle issues by allowing them to store all information in one place that can be accessed from anywhere, anytime. Do you want to know more? Request a demo!