Tips for Leaders to Facilitate Conflict Resolution

by Rob Marchalonis.

Ever find yourself in the middle, between employees or associates who disagree or have conflict? Like good parents and counselors, leaders can play an important role in facilitating communication, promoting understanding, and strengthening relationships between others whom they lead or influence.

Do not be surprised if people tend to draw you into their issues. They probably value and respect your input. Sometimes just listening as a mentor or friend is all that is needed. Your challenge is to be supportive and helpful, without overstepping boundaries or adding to unproductive drama. If you feel compelled to engage, here is one way to proceed with a simple 5-step process:

  1. Gain Understanding. Avoid quick judgement. Ask questions to get more information. Listen carefully.
    • What happened? Why does this concern you?
    • How long has this been an issue? Who else is affected? What is the ideal outcome?
    • What would you recommend? Who can help you with this? What do you plan to do next?
  2. Provide Perspective. What related conditions or circumstances are relevant, for you to add context?
    • External – to what extent are economic, political, social, or other outside forces affecting the issue?
    • Organizational – how can your purpose, vision, mission, values, or goals guide your response or correction?
    • Personal – how are an individual’s background, experience, education, or other circumstances relevant?
  3. Honor the Absent. As a third-party, use care and discretion – especially when one participant is missing.
    • Acknowledge the missing person, “With (person) not here to give their input or defend themself…”
    • Facilitate awareness and sensitivity to the other side, “…why do you think they would behave this way?”
    • Defend, where appropriate and with permission, “Can I take the other side, just for us to discuss?”
  4. Promote Self Awareness and Control. How are all parties behaving?
    • Assess to what extent everyone is aware of their behaviors and impact on others.
    • Encourage self-discipline and consideration of others. “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.”
    • Remind, “You may have little control of your circumstances, but much control of how you choose to respond.”
  5. Facilitate Communication. One great way to resolve conflict is with a discussion.
    • Confirm what interactions happened in the past, how they went, and what was the outcome.
    • Encourage the parties to connect on their own to resolve their issues. “Have you spoken with them about this?”
    • Moderate a discussion between both sides, using the list above to help them identify a solution or next steps.

Be a Bridge Builder

You could be the one to facilitate understanding, communication, and better relationships between others who disagree. Consider it an opportunity, rather than a burden, to be stuck in the middle.

Rob Marchalonis helps organizations and leaders prosper and grow with simple Leadership, Strategy, and Process solutions. Learn more at or email ©2020


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