The Catholic University of America

Conflict Resolution

Conflict can occur for many reasons.

Employees spend a lot of time together. We rely on one another to get things done. We can have differing points of view, communication can be lacking, misunderstood and sometimes expectations are not clear. This can lead to conflict.

Conflict can also be positive. It can lead to employees challenging each other’s ideas, which if done in a supportive environment, can lead to new ideas and problem solving.

Some examples of healthy conflict include:
• Tensions that sheds light on emerging issues
• Disagreements handled in a supportive environments that foster problem resolution and new ideas

Some examples of damaging conflicts:
• Name Calling.
• Personal Attacks.
• Silent and Withdrawn, afraid to speak up
• Cliques, gossip and rumors.
• Lack of Mutual Respect.

Supervisors must work to resolve conflict or employees not directly involved may feel that they must take sides, or completely withdraw from the conflict and others.

This will cause morale and productivity to become lower as employees are now focused in some manner on the conflict and not work.

Teamwork becomes difficult, and teams may become divided.


> Understand that conflicts are inevitable.
> Resolve to address conflict quickly.
> Focus on the problem.
> Be open to solutions.
> Acknowledge how employees are feeling.
> Listen actively.

> Focus on personality traits that cannot be changed.
> Interrupt.
> Attack.
> Disregard the feelings of the employees.
> Avoid the conflict.
> Allow emotions to take over the conversation.
Impose personal values or beliefs


There are six steps to the Conflict Resolution Process:
1. Clarify what the disagreement is.
2. Establish a common goal for both parties.
3. Discuss ways to meet the common goal.
4. Determine the barriers to the common goal.
5. Agree on the best way to resolve the conflict.
6. Acknowledge the agreed solution and determine the responsibilities each party has in the resolution.
This process should be completed by all parties in the conflict together.

Clarify what the disagreement is
Clarifying involves getting to the heart of the conflict. The goal of this step is to get both sides to agree on what the disagreement is.
• Discuss what needs are not being met on both sides of the conflict. Ensure mutual understanding.
• Obtain as much information as possible on each side’s point of view.
• Continue to ask questions until you are certain that you and each side of the conflict understand the issue.

Establish a common goal for both parties
In this step of the process, both sides agree on the desired outcome of the conflict.
• Discuss what each party would like to see happen.
• Find a commonality in both sides as a starting point for a shared outcome. That commonality can be as simple as “both sides want to end the conflict.”

Discuss ways to meet the common goal
Both sides work together to discuss ways that they can meet the goal they agreed upon in step 2.
• Brainstorm different approaches to meet the goal.
• Discuss until all the options are exhausted.

Determine the barriers to the common goal
In this step of the process, the two parties acknowledge what has brought them into the conflict.
• Ask: “If we could have the outcome that we both wanted, how would that look?”
• Define what can and cannot be changed about the situation.
• For the items that cannot be changed, discuss ways of getting around those road blocks.

Agree on the best way to resolve the conflict
Both parties come to a conclusion on the best resolution.
• Determine a solution that both sides can live with.
• Discuss the responsibility each party has in maintaining the solution.
• Settle on a means of ensuring that this conflict does not arise again.

Acknowledge the agreed solution and determine the responsibilities each party has in the resolution
Both sides own their responsibility in the resolution of the conflict and express aloud what they have agreed to.
• Get both parties to acknowledge a win-win situation.
• Ask both parties to use phrases such as “I agree to…” and “I acknowledge that I have responsibility for…”

The Employee Relations Manager is available to review and help with any situations. Contact Lisa Wood at tel: 202-319-6594.