dealing with workplace conflicts

When an issue or conflict arises, the primary goal is to resolve it before it escalates into something bigger and more damaging to work relationships and productivity.  Training for each worker should include coverage of workplace policies for conflict resolution in order to best fulfill work expectations and responsibilities.  Conflict resolution training should be ongoing to reinforce the proper channels for solutions and foster confidence and trust among staff to maintain a professional presence.  Still, difficult situations will arise and it is the responsibility of the supervisors to be vigilant of these events and deal with them accordingly, and in a consistent and timely manner.

Using the Evans & Ward (2007) and Week 11 Lecture, the following steps are recommended:

Issue:  A subordinate of yours (whom you do not supervise directly) has not been performing up to par for a number of weeks. You have heard about this problem indirectly.  What are the first few steps you take? What if the problem doesn’t get better?

  1. Always observe the Chain of Command.
  2. Take time to observe, assess and document first hand.
  3. Brainstorm possible solutions. (this may take time)
  4. Determine the best approach to achieve the desired result.
  5. Don’t delay and proceed with purpose.
  6. Choose an appropriate time and place.  In this case, meet with the direct supervisor of the individual to discuss awareness of the issue.  Other events may require meeting with all involved, either individually and/or together.
  7. State the issue as understood, focusing communicate on work related issues rather than personal, and request clarification.
  8. Listen, listen, listen.
  9. Discuss or state the solution or potential solutions that need to be applied in a given time frame that will achieve the desired result.  In this case, meet with the individual’s direct supervisor to determine awareness of the issue and request the supervisor to meet with the individual to find out why their work performance is not up to par and work toward a solution.
  10. Once the conversation has taken place, document it, but drop it and trust people to take corrective action, but observe that it is resolved rather than assume it is.
  11. Allow for the interested parties to request further assistance if the issue isn’t resolved.  Steps toward formal discipline procedures may need to be followed and documented.

Conflict resolution plans are easily stated on paper.  The first event will be difficult, but putting it off won’t make it easier.  Creating an open and inviting environment is essential to facilitate communication and make it easier for staff to discuss issues.  While humor and conversation may help foster an amiable work relationship, the supervisor sets the example to treat one another with mutual respect in spite of differing views or philosophies to create a productive work environment.  Maintaining professionalism and courtesy amongst staff should be both demonstrated and encouraged by emphasizing the goals of the institution as well as the accomplishments of those goals to reinforce team membership and teamwork.  Giving credit where credit is due and showing appreciation for and celebrating the accomplishments and efforts of each person is important to facilitate positive institutional thinking.


Evans, G. E., & Layzell, W. P. (2007). Management basics for information professionals. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Reynolds, B. (2011). Unit 11:  Dealing with workplace crises: Employee discipline & difficult customers. [Online Lecture, SJSU SLIS LIBR 204].