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Tips to De-Escalate Workplace Conflict

Published October 14, 2016 (last updated August 16, 2023) - Face2Face Field Service Manager

At some point in your workplace, you as an employer will need to tackle conflict head on. Whether the conflict is present between employees or yourself and an employee, understanding how best to de-escalate and solve the issue is key.

While ideally, the best conflict management is to prevent it from occurring in the first place, there are a number of tips employers can follow to de-escalate a heated situation.

Listen to all points of view and find the facts

Employers need to ensure they hear all sides to the story. This involves speaking to each person involved independently by putting aside an hour or two to meet with the parties involved privately. Use these meetings to understand concerns and the underlying reason for the conflict. Conflict may be a result of two different working styles, or one employee negatively affecting the other. Employers need to recognise where the conflict stems from, and actively work with their employees to overcome it.

Put yourself in their shoes

Regardless of who the conflict is between, put yourself in your employees’ shoes to truly understand what has motivated their behaviour. This does not mean excusing their behaviour, but it may give you insight into why they are unhappy and what you can do to resolve it.

Work with the employee to solve the problem

Invite the employee to share their thoughts on how the conflict should be resolved. More often than not, they will have a solution in mind that they would be happy to implement. Work with the employees to determine whether the situation has been resolved after a specified period of time. Keep a close eye on the situation yourself, so that you can step in if you see the solution is not working.

Is the conflict harassment?

Whilst most workplace conflicts are a result of misunderstanding or personality clashes, some conflicts may be far more serious. If a conflict arises where an employee is insulting a co-worker based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religious beliefs then this is harassment. Everyone has a right to not be bullied or harassed at work, and there are anti-bullying laws which prohibit this.

Work to build a united team

Team building days or activities can promote a feeling of unity within your team, and bring your staff members together. This will give your staff the opportunity to interact with each other outside of the working environment, while learning a little more about each other’s personalities and traits.

Employers often do not know the best way to handle conflicts within their workplace, however Employsure can assist. Our specialist team can work with you to resolve conflicts or dispute in your workplace, or any questions you may have. Call us today on 0800 568 012 to speak to one of our knowledgeable staff.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,500 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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