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Dealing with Conflict

All workplaces have conflict, either between workers, or between a worker and a supervisor. When conflict arises, it needs to be dealt with fairly and effectively, as soon as possible. Unresolved conflict reduces the productivity and satisfaction of workers, and costs the employer both time and money.

The key to dealing with conflict is to address the issue and work to provide solutions before it affects the entire group or the business. If your employees are unionized, consult your collective agreement. It likely sets out a process for dealing with disputes, and, if so, that process takes precedence over any suggestions contained in this document.

Managing Workplace Conflict

In managing workplace conflict there are several steps you should follow:

  • Do not avoid conflict.
  • Conflict does not go away by itself. Most people need assistance in working through their differences so that they can work together.
  • Get to the root of the problem: the real issue. Often there may be multiple issues as a result of one root problem.
  • Speak to the employees who are having the conflict together in a private setting. Talking to them individually may add to the conflict.
  • Remain neutral and do not take sides. Give each person a chance to talk about the issue without being interrupted. Do not permit personal attacks.
  • Remain neutral and do not take sides. Give each person a chance to talk about the issue without being interrupted. Do not permit personal attacks.
  • Help create option to resolve the conflict. Realize that behaviours can change but personalities cannot.
  • Have the employees agree on an action(s) that will help resolve the issue. Indicate your commitment to support them with this plan of action.
  • Agree on timelines for the actions that result in respectful behaviour and set a follow up time to meet with the employees to determine if agreements have been met.
  • If the conflict continues, meet to determine what went wrong. As an employer you may need to consider some workplace changes or help from a third party to resolve the issues.

Although conflict in a workplace is commonly between employees or between an employer and a supervisor or manager, sometimes everyone in the company is affected. Helping to create a respectful workplace free from offensive behaviour is one way the employer can reduce workplace conflicts.

For more information about harassment or conflict management supports and training, please contact the Labour Relations Division of the Department of Environment, Labour, and Justice

Telephone: (902) 368-5550

Toll-free: 1-800-333-4362

Consult the Yellow Pages in your telephone directory, or consult your business organization, for referrals to private providers of conflict resolution services.

Respectful Workplace 1

What is a respectful workplace? It is a workplace where:

  • All employees feel valued;
  • Communication is polite and considerate;
  • People are treated as they wish to be treated;
  • Conflict is dealt with in a positive and respectful way;
  • Disrespectful behaviour and harassment are addressed.

Some of the ways employers can build a respectful workplace are:


  • Regularly provide training on respectful workplaces to all workers and management.
  • Provide new employees with an orientation and review their rights, responsibilities and obligations towards other employees.

Policies & Practices

  • Review policies and practices to make sure they encourage respect.
  • Involve employees in the development of respectful workplace polices.
  • Ensure that employees know what the policy is and have it posted in places where employees gather, for example the break room or lunch room.

Encourage Responsibility

  • Hold supervisors, managers and employees responsible for their behaviour.
  • Make sure that reporting relationships are clear and that each person has only one supervisor.
  • Look into all complaints of disrespect and harassment.
  • Consider respectful behaviour in performance reviews.

1 Source: Building Better Workplaces