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Conflict Resolution at the Workplace


Conflicts may occur in any setting where different groups of people interact, such as in a workplace. However, since the workers have different backgrounds, simple issues can escalate into violence or disharmony within the job environment. Thus, it requires both expertise and organizational regulations to bring sanity among the members facing problems. In most cases, the Human Resource Manager (HRM) plays a crucial role in handling all issues related to the employees, including solving matters, which result in fights or cruel exchanges. Therefore, the HRMs must have appropriate skills and knowledge or undergo capacity enhancement training to recognize conflicts and handle them confidently (Becton 1, p. 105). This prepares them for possible workplace scenarios, such as grievances, job termination, tough business decisions, and poor performance of workers.

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Mutual conversation among employees is one of the critical factors which result in good relationships among the workers. However, there are times when such talks can make one uncomfortable, and in this case, leadership can play a crucial role in changing the perception of the rumors or trending information. A managers’ failure to know how to handle such issues conveniently through difficult conversations might cause problems (Becton 1, p. 107). Possible issues may include persistence of the matters under scrutiny, losing confidence in the HR’s ability to lead, and reduced employee performance, which can adversely affect the organization’s output or high employee misconduct rates. On the other hand, solving those issues effectively and efficiently may improve worker’s performance and strengthen the relationship between the management and workforce.

Conversation Plan

The HR manager needs to set some ways through which an organization’s workers can interact with each other and with the management. The main aim of having a conflict resolution plan in an organization is to ensure the total eradication of possible discrimination against an employee (Becton et al., 1, p. 108). However, when such cases happen, the plan can give a clear, considerate, and unbiased procedure, which can provide an effective platform for solving disharmonies arising from time to time. The most common types of conflicts which can occur at the workplace can be categorized as follows:

  1. Task based conflicts
  2. Leadership conflict
  3. Work-style conflicts
  4. Personality conflicts
  5. Discrimination conflicts
  6. Sexual harassment conflicts

The HR manager should understand and contextualize the issue before proceeding with the conversation.

Organizational Conversation Guidelines

Before handling any workplace conflicts, one has to thoroughly prepare for the conversation they are going to have. Some of the guidelines for planning for a tough conversation include the following:

  1. What is the issue at hand?
  2. How is the problem being encountered affecting the organization and employees’ performance?
  3. What information has the employee conveyed?
  4. What possible solutions can you come up with to handle the prevailing situation?
  5. What is the reaction of the employee concerning the raised issue?
  6. Is there any additional information available?
  7. Does any investigation need to be carried out?
  8. What agreement has the manager and the employee reached concerning the issue?
  9. What solutions did the employee suggest?
  10. What was the final agreement or conclusion?
  11. What is the next phase for both you and your employee?
  12. When is the next meeting or any follow ups?

These questions can help a manager understand the issue and thus provide the best solution to the problem.

Handling Sexual Harassment Complaints

If an employee has complained about experiencing sexual harassment, the manager is supposed to take action by investigating it swiftly. After receiving a grievance, the HR manager should acknowledge the complaint, interrogate the offended, document the findings, confirm the procedure of handling grievances, and communicate the outcome to the petitioner (Becton 1, p. 108). The administrator should then wait for the other executive members to deliberate on the issue and reach a determination.

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Plan for Conversation with Complainant

If the decision is upheld by the management, the next steps should entail adhering to the organization’s disciplinary procedure, which include the following:

  1. Five W’s: who, what, when, where, and how. It is important for the complainant to identify the harasser appropriately, give a description of what happened during the moment, if there are any witnesses available, they should be named in case they will be needed to recount the events which happened.
  2. Did the person harass someone else? It is important to establish if the harasser has any previous behavioral issues.
  3. Is there any evidence which shows how the person harassed you? This will allow the complainant to present anything, if available, to show how or when she was harassed, in what ways, or for how long.
  4. Has the harassment affected your job in any way? The complainant should state any ways in which harassment has affected her job output, if any.
  5. Have you shared this information with anyone? It is crucial to understand whether there are other employees who are aware of the harassment which has been reported by the complainant or knows any other person who has experienced the same abuse.
  6. How did you react? The complainant is supposed to recount what happened or what has been happening during such instances.
  7. How long has this been going on? The complainant should state the duration of the harassment.
  8. What ways would you propose to handle the situation? The complainant should suggest what she thinks could help curb the situation in order to prevent more similar instances.
  9. Is there any additional information you may wish to give? If the complainant has any more information aside from the guided questions, she should be free to talk about them.

Questions to Ask the Accused

  1. Do you understand what sexual harassment entails according to the organization’s policy?
  2. How well do you know your fellow employees in the department you work in?
  3. Do you know the (victim’s name)?
  4. Are you in any way attracted to (victim’s name)?
  5. Have you ever harassed (the victim’s name) in any suggestive or sexual way or even performed any sexual actions forcefully?
  6. Have you ever given (the victim) any favors in exchange for affection?
  7. What is your version of the story?
  8. Do you agree with the complainant’s narration? If not, is there any reason you feel or think of why the complainant might be accusing you?

During the investigation, the manager might find it wise to separate the individuals involved by placing them in a different department or giving them compulsory leave. After investigation and evaluation of provided facts, the manager should be able to decide and inform both parties. If the accused is found guilty, then the human resource manager should take the necessary actions, such as demoting the offender or terminating employment. Further, follow-ups may be done on the complainant to ensure they are doing well in their work.


John Bret Becton, 2017. Preventing and Correcting Workplace Harassment: Guidelines for Employers. p. 101. Web.

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