In today’s increasingly diverse and globally distributed teams, fostering a culture of inclusivity and understanding is essential. One key aspect of promoting this inclusive environment is addressing unconscious bias in the workplace.

Unconscious bias, sometimes called implicit bias, refers to the attitudes and beliefs we unknowingly hold towards others, often stemming from stereotypes and societal expectations. These biases can significantly impact our interactions and decisions, potentially leading to discrimination, exclusion, and unhealthy workplace culture.

The harmful impact of workplace bias is starkly illuminated in a survey where an alarming 33% of those subjected to bias report feelings of alienation. Equally concerning is that 34% of employees facing bias choose to hold back their ideas and solutions. And a massive 80% would hesitate to recommend their employer to others.

These are clear indications of the long-term damage to an organization’s reputation and ability to attract and retain top talent. The importance of addressing unconscious bias in the workplace cannot be overstated.

Organizations can create more inclusive, productive, and engaging work environments by recognizing and actively working to eliminate these biases. This, in turn, benefits not only individual employees but also the overall success and growth of the company.

The following sections will explore unconscious biases, how they manifest in workplace interactions, and practical strategies for preventing and overcoming them to create an inclusive workplace.

what is unconscious bias in the workplace

Understanding Key Unconscious Biases:

Understanding the different types of unconscious bias is crucial for addressing and mitigating their impact in the workplace. While there are many forms of unconscious bias, we will focus on six common types that are particularly relevant to the recruitment process, hiring decisions, and work environment.


1. Affinity Bias

Affinity bias occurs when we unconsciously favor individuals with similar characteristics, backgrounds, or interests. This can lead to preferential treatment and less diverse teams, as people may inadvertently gravitate towards others who remind them of themselves.

2. Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out and interpret information in a way that confirms our pre-existing beliefs and assumptions. In the workplace, this can manifest as a manager overlooking an employee’s positive attributes or accomplishments simply because they have already formed a negative opinion about them.

3. Halo Effect

The halo effect refers to viewing someone in an overly positive light due to one outstanding quality or achievement. This can lead to biased evaluations and expectations, as individuals may be given more opportunities or responsibilities based on an inflated perception of their abilities.

4. Horns Effect

The horns effect is the opposite of the halo effect. It occurs when one negative characteristic or incident unfairly colors our perception of an individual, causing us to overlook their positive attributes or accomplishments. This can result in missed opportunities for growth and development within the workplace.

5. Attribution Bias

Attribution bias refers to attributing our successes to our efforts and abilities while blaming failures on external factors. Conversely, we often attribute others’ successes to external factors and their failures to personal shortcomings. This bias can lead to unfair judgments of employees’ performance and potential.

6. Racial and Gender Bias

Gender and racial biases are specific types of unconscious bias manifesting as discriminatory attitudes, beliefs, or stereotypes based on a person’s gender or ethnicity. These biases can lead to discrimination and exclusion within the workplace, limiting opportunities and advancement for underrepresented groups of people.

By familiarizing ourselves with different forms of unconscious bias, we can become more aware of how they may manifest in our daily interactions with teammates. This heightened awareness is the first step towards addressing and mitigating their negative impact in the workplace.

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Detecting and Navigating Unconscious Bias in Workplace Interactions

To foster a truly inclusive and equitable work environment, individuals must recognize unconscious bias within themselves and their interactions with coworkers. This section will explore examples of unconscious bias in everyday interactions, common pitfalls in biased performance evaluations, and active listening techniques for detecting and managing preferences.

11 Examples of Unconscious Bias in Everyday Interactions

Unconscious biases can manifest in myriad ways within the workplace, often subtly influencing daily team interactions. By examining personal and relatable examples, leaders can gain valuable insights into how these biases may affect their organization.

1. Exclusionary Conversations: Favoring certain coworkers in group discussions, dismissing others’ ideas based on preconceived notions, or making inappropriate jokes or comments that marginalize specific individuals.

2. Cliques and Homogeneity: Forming cliques with like-minded individuals or those with similar backgrounds.

3. Biased Choices Affecting Fairness and Opportunities: Allowing personal biases to influence decisions on project assignments, promotions, or hiring, potentially disadvantaging qualified candidates.

4. Assumptions About Expertise: Assuming that specific individuals have more or less knowledge or expertise in a particular field based on their gender, race, or age rather than evaluating their actual qualifications and experience.

5. Microaggressions: Making subtle, indirect, or unintentional discriminatory comments or actions towards individuals from marginalized groups.

6. Overlooking Diverse Candidates: Unconsciously ignoring or undervaluing resumes from candidates with non-traditional backgrounds, names, or experiences.

7. Networking Bias: Favoring individuals who are more similar to you or belong to your social circle during networking events or informal gatherings.

8. Unbalanced Workload Distribution: Assigning tasks and projects based on gender, racial, or cultural stereotypes.

9. In-Group Favoritism: Favoring the opinions and ideas of team members who belong to your own social, cultural, or professional group.

10. Mentoring Bias: Selecting mentees or proteges based on personal similarities or shared interests rather than their skills, potential, or needs.

11. Office Space Bias: Assigning office spaces or seating arrangements based on implicit biases, leading to unequal access to resources, collaboration opportunities, or visibility within the organization.

types of bias in the workplace

5 Common Pitfalls in Biased Performance Reviews

As leaders striving to foster growth and development within your team, it’s crucial to ensure that performance evaluations are free from unconscious biases. Understanding and addressing potential pitfalls can create a more equitable and supportive environment for all employees.

1. Relying On Stereotypes: Evaluating an employee’s performance based on gender, racial, cultural, age, or personality stereotypes rather than their abilities and achievements.

2. Focusing On Recent Events: Overemphasizing an employee’s recent successes or failures rather than considering their overall performance over an extended period.

3. Comparing Employees Unfairly: Judging an employee’s performance against that of their peers without considering differences in roles, responsibilities, or circumstances

4. The “Similar-to-Me” Bias: Overvaluing employees who share similar interests, life experiences, or characteristics with you, leading to an inflated assessment of their performance and potential.

5. The “Negative Attribution” Bias: Tending to attribute an employee’s mistakes or shortcomings to personal factors while attributing successes to external factors or luck, leading to an unfairly negative evaluation of their performance.

Awareness of and addressing unconscious biases in workplace interactions is crucial for fostering a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI) environment. By understanding how these biases can manifest in communication, team dynamics, decision-making, and performance evaluations, leaders can take proactive steps to mitigate their impact.

Proactively Addressing and Preventing Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Tackling unconscious biases proactively is essential for cultivating a workplace where every employee can flourish. A commitment to diversity and inclusion is indispensable for stimulating innovation, boosting employee engagement, and elevating overall business performance.

By championing these values, organizations can harness the power of diverse perspectives, experiences, and skills, resulting in more effective decision-making and problem-solving capabilities.

Furthermore, increasing self-awareness plays a crucial role in this journey. When employees and leaders become more cognizant of their biases, they are better equipped to challenge and change their thought patterns.

To become aware of your own biases, start by educating yourself.

Paying attention to your thoughts and examining your beliefs can help you identify your current assumptions. Harvard Business Review

This heightened self-awareness reduces bias and fosters empathy and understanding, fostering an environment where every person feels valued and respected.

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The Cloverleaf Team Dashboard is a powerful tool that enables leaders and team members to effectively identify biases within teams, providing an array of benefits and features, such as:

  • Comprehensive Insights: Gain a holistic understanding of your team’s strengths, weaknesses, and communication styles to proactively identify and address potential biases.
  • Validated Assessments: Access some of the most popular and trusted assortments to gather valuable individual and team dynamics to uncover potential biases.
  • Actionable Automated Coaching™: Receive accurate, relevant, in-the-moment coaching nudges on how to address identified biases, enhance collaboration, and improve team performance.

Leveraging comprehensive insights, validated assessments, and actionable coaching empowers users to identify and proactively address potential biases.


Active listening is essential for detecting and managing unconscious biases in workplace interactions. By employing specific techniques and honing their active listening skills, leaders can foster open communication and promote understanding among teammates.

1. Provide Your Full Attention: Consciously focus entirely on the speaker, avoid distractions, and maintain eye contact. Practice being present in the moment, setting aside personal thoughts or judgments, and providing visual cues (e.g., nodding) to show engagement.

2. Reflect And Paraphrase: Summarize the speaker’s key points in your own words to ensure understanding and show empathy. Practice using phrases like “What I hear you saying is…” or “It sounds like…” to demonstrate that you are actively listening and valuing their perspective.

3. Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encourage further elaboration and exploration by asking open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Practice using phrases like “Can you tell me more about…” or “How did you feel when…” to invite deeper conversation.”

4. Suspend Judgment: Consciously set aside personal biases and opinions while listening to others. Practice active curiosity, seeking to learn and understand the speaker’s perspective, even if it differs from yours.

5. Providing Non Judgemental Feedback: Offer constructive, empathetic, and unbiased feedback. Practice using “I” statements to express your thoughts and feelings without placing blame or judgment on the speaker (e.g., “I understand your concern, and I think it would be helpful if we considered…”).

By incorporating these tips into your daily interactions, you can effectively implement and improve active listening techniques, allowing you to better manage and address unconscious biases in the workplace.

Leadership’s Crucial Contribution to an Equitable Workplace Culture

Leaders play a pivotal role in shaping the culture of a workplace. Their actions, attitudes, and decisions set the organization’s tone and profoundly influence their teams’ behavior. In the context of unconscious bias, leaders have a significant responsibility to foster an equitable and inclusive work environment. Here’s how:

1. Exemplify Inclusive Behavior

As a leader, make a conscious effort to demonstrate inclusivity. Value each member’s unique contributions, celebrate diversity, and ensure fair treatment across the board. Modeling this behavior encourages others to do the same.

Acknowledging and valuing the unique strengths and perspectives of all team members, irrespective of their personality types

For example, incorporating members of each Enneagram Triad in your team could lead to a richer variety of viewpoints. The Gut Triad (Types 8, 9, and 1) brings instinct and intuition to the table. The Heart Triad (Types 2, 3, and 4) adds emotional intelligence and empathy, while the Head Triad (Types 5, 6, and 7) contributes intellect and analytical thinking.

Similarly, by considering all DISC profile types (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness), leaders can ensure a balance between assertive, people-oriented, steady, and analytical personalities respectively. This balance can promote comprehensive decision-making and effective communication within the team.

16 Types also provides insight into a range of personalities that leaders can use to foster a well-rounded and balanced team.

Leaders can celebrate inclusivity in a deeper sense by intentionally including and valuing members with diverse personality types. Going beyond obvious characteristics like race, gender, and age to value diversity in thought, perspective, and approach.

Don’t limit yourself or your team to a single perspective; remember, the more assessments you engage with, the richer your understanding becomes. Start your journey towards a more cohesive and productive team today by taking your first assessment at Cloverleaf! 

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By taking assessments and getting actionable insights on your results, you’ll learn something new about yourself and your team.

2. Implement Diverse And Inclusive Policies

Champion diversity and inclusion by establishing diverse hiring practices and offering equal growth and development opportunities. Create policies that discourage discrimination and encourage flexibility, ensuring everyone in your team feels supported.

3. Invest In Supportive Resources

Empower ongoing development by utilizing tools and training programs to showcase your commitment to reducing bias.

4. Facilitate Open Dialogue

Foster a culture of open, honest conversations around bias and discrimination. Regularly invite and be receptive to feedback, and take prompt action to address any issues that arise.

5. Monitor And Rectify Bias

Regularly assess the workplace for signs of bias. Solicit input from employees and conduct audits to implement measures to correct these biases swiftly.

By adopting these steps, leaders can ensure their leadership approach actively contributes to a more equitable, inclusive workplace culture.

The Long-Term Benefits of Addressing Bias In The Workplace

The journey to an inclusive and equitable workplace requires unearthing and addressing biases. Employees who feel valued and included are more likely to be committed to their roles, stay with the company longer, and contribute more effectively to the team’s goals.

Promoting a workplace free from bias is not just the right thing to do—it’s an intelligent business strategy that can drive growth, innovation, and success in the long term. It sends a strong message to potential employees, stakeholders, and the public that the company values fairness and equity. Further, an inclusive and equitable workplace attracts top talent from various backgrounds, enhancing the organization’s reputation, retention, and competitiveness in the global market.

Creating better workplaces is paved with awareness, understanding, commitment, and action toward reducing unconscious bias. While the journey may be challenging, the rewards – a truly inclusive, diverse, and equitable workplace where everyone feels valued and empowered – are worth the effort.

One of the most challenging things about being a new manager are the moments we have to have conversations we wish would…have themselves. Going from boss to coach means difficult conversations are an opportunity for growth; for you AND the team member. You will learn more about conflict resolution from the tough conversations than from the easy ones.

How do you learn to have difficult conversations? You have to have them. You have to be willing to be uncomfortable, make mistakes, and learn from them.

Why Do We Hate Difficult Conversations?

We all arrive in our roles bringing our entire lives up until this moment. The environments we grew up in shape our view of how to communicate, how to interact with conflict (or how to avoid it) and how to empathize. 

We don’t teach kids in school all of these crucial conflict management skills. No offense to your favorite math teacher, but perhaps some communication skills could have gotten as much air time as the isosceles triangle?

The adults we become then show up in the workforce with varied viewpoints and have to magically know how to navigate these difficult situations. We hate difficult conversations because we:

  • Don’t have the skills to navigate them.
  • Don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
  • Have grown accustomed to avoiding conflict. 

There’s actually a huge fallout to avoiding these conversations. According to Bravely, 70% of employees are avoiding difficult conversations with their boss, colleagues, or direct reports. This actually costs companies money, time, and employee engagement

Types of difficult conversations

Maybe you’ve not come across a difficult situation just yet, but let’s go dive into the deep end and make sure you are ready for these types of conversations:

Addressing differing perspectives and workstyles

  • These can be minor and based on interpersonal reasons or even work-specific perspectives that need to be ironed out.
  • An ongoing discomfort in your relationship with a team member (i.e. increased misunderstandings, tension, etc).

Identifying a workplace behavior that has a negative impact

  • You’ve got a super start on your team, but they tend to roll in Monday morning sharing about their weekend and are TMI gold medalists. Some team members feel a little uncomfortable and before it gets worse, you’ve got to address it. 
  • You have a team member who has attendance or lateness issues.
  • A team member hasn’t been pulling their weight.

Managing conflict between two team members

  • Two team members regularly disagree during team meetings causing discomfort for the team and delaying team action. 
  • There’s been an actual incident in the workplace of conflict that must be addressed ASAP.
  • A project is stalled because of conflict between co-workers.

Having to fire someone

  • Negative performance has been a pattern and after all appropriate action has been taken according to HR. You have to let the person go. 
  • Budget cuts or layoffs are impacting the company and a person’s position is being eliminated. 

Starting Difficult Conversations

The reality is these types of conversations usually cannot wait. The impact of waiting can make the impact even worse for the individual, your team and yes…you. Similarly with giving feedback, how you START the conversation can really set the tone for a productive face-to-face interaction. Here’s some conversation starters that help to level the playing field as you approach a conflict situation:

  • “There’s something I think we should discuss that will help improve our working relationship.”
  • “I’d like to talk about ____________ with you, but first I’d like to get your point of view.”
  • “I think we have different perspectives about ____________. I’d like to understand how you are thinking about it. 
  • “I’d like to see if we can come to a mutual understanding regarding___________. I really want to understand where you are coming from and also share my perspective.”

These difficult conversation starters help to interrupt fear and make it clear that this will be an exchange. Notice there is no judgment about the differences that may be present. This is part of becoming a good leader. Embracing that there are people who have valid perspectives that you may not agree with and understand is critical to being able to create mutual respect as you collaborate and lead others.

Difficult Conversation Planning Strategies

For all you color coded planners out there, YES you can plan for a difficult conversation. However you don’t want to OVERPLAN. Let some of it be organic. It’s tough to trust yourself but remember you can always criticize yourself with some self-deprecating humor later with a friend. Here’s a helpful guide to preparing for these conversations:

  1. Determine the desired outcomes from the conversation, for YOU and the team member. 
  2. Pick your conversation opener. Don’t overscript it, but have a general idea.
  3. Remember to use your active listening skills to better understand the person’s point of view, even if you don’t agree.
  4. What are the MOST important things you need to get across?
  5. What information do you need (if any) to support the conversation?
  6. Anticipate some possible responses and consider how you will handle each one. This is not supposed to freak you out, it’s just to give you some batting practice for the big game.
  7. What is the BEST case scenario? (Yes, let’s get positive going into this. We often go to a place of gloom and doom, making crucial conversations like this more difficult than they have to be.)
  8. What are the next steps you need to communicate in conversation (i.e. does this conversation require any follow up?

Remember our FEAR about these challenging conversations is usually bigger than the actual conversation. You will often let out a huge sigh of relief after you have one, so remind yourself of the COST of waiting. Go all Nike on this one and just DO IT!

For more “Boss To Coach” tools and tips, download our free New Manager Playbook.

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About Stephanie Licata

With more than two decades of leadership and management experience, Stephanie Licata is a skilled professional coach, adult learning specialist, consultant and speaker. She has trained thousands of leaders and managers in the art and science of coaching as part of large-scale projects to develop coaching cultures within organizations. Stephanie received her professional coaching certification from New York University, and is also certified at the ACC level with the International Coaching Federation. She holds a BS in counseling and a Masters in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University.

Let’s face it. We’ve all had conflicts in the workplace. Whether they are small or large, conflicts are a natural part of work and unavoidable. 

Even the most favorable environments will occasionally end up with people who are at odds with one another. Rather than viewing conflict as a negative situation, you can use it as an opportunity to improve communication, interpersonal relationships, and the company and team culture. 

Quality conflict resolution skills go a long way towards realizing these benefits So, knowing how to facilitate and manage a solution as a leader is imperative.

This article will help guide you through effective conflict resolution and how to avoid it in the workplace. So keep reading to learn more about conflict resolution for managers.  

What is Conflict Resolution And how does it work?

Conflict resolution is a process that two or more parties can follow to find an amicable resolution to their disagreement. The process can be formal or informal. As a manager, your company may have a defined conflict resolution process already. 

In conflict resolution, each step you take addresses a conflict between two or more people. A direct report might conflict with you or with other employees. Being able to compromise between all of the parties peacefully is an essential part of being a leader. There are several parts to successful conflict resolution:

  • Understanding the causes of conflicts
  • Developing ways to find conflict solutions
  • Leveraging conflict management tools

Once you manage conflict in these three areas, you are in a good position to field the conflicts that come up throughout your career. You’ll get a good reputation as a peacemaker who can find a fair compromise for conflict situations that come up.

Understanding the cause of conflict

The sources of difficult conflict within an organization or a team depend on many factors, from how people interact with each other, their ages, the industry they work in, whether they’re under stress or experiencing burnout. Certain times of the year might be worse for some team members, or they could be going through personal problems that make them more prone to being in conflict. Knowing how conflicts are caused can help you manage conflict and find the best solutions. Here are some of the most common conflict situations that are created.

Poor Communication Skills

Often, poor communication skills are one of the main causes of conflict. When people disagree on policies, procedures, schedules, tasks, and other details, it can easily escalate into an argument that strains relationships and puts your team management behind on deadlines. You may also see employees who have a difficult time communicating with their coworkers and may come off as aggressive or passive-aggressive. Sometimes trying to talk with one another is an exercise in frustration. If the company has inefficient or obsolete digital communication tools or phone lines that go down frequently, then trying to convey information is its stressor.

Easily access data-driven insights on your people on Cloverleaf. Learn more here.

Mismatched Expectations

Everyone needs to operate off the same set of expectations, or their assumptions can lead to unseen conflict. Suppose two staff members have wildly different expectations about who is responsible for what, the tasks that are priorities, and the time required to do each item on the list. In that case, they can find themselves in an unexpected conflict. You will see that when everyone can work together on the same page and understand one another, there are fewer opportunities for conflict.

Unrealistic Workloads

Long stints of overtime or being in crunch mode constantly will wear talent out. They’re not able to take a long-term look at a project or the tasks they’re doing. They have to operate at the moment at all times, without a minute to catch their breaths. The burnout from project stress can create a ripe workplace for conflict. You may see that people are short-tempered, aggressive, frustrated, and have poor judgment.

Personality Issues

You might see that people have personalities destined to clash, like two highly competitive team members. There are a few ways to work around this type of situation, like shifting people to different departments or teams, helping employees figure out ways to work together, and finding common ground where they can relate to one another.

Sometimes you might see that a personality problem is so extreme, it creates a toxic workplace. You may experience significant turnover among talented employees who can’t deal with the negativity getting thrown around. Other’s productivity may plummet, and burnout can increase.

A toxic workplace might result from not knowing what your people prefer the environment to be. Learn how to align your leadership style with the cultural preferences of your people here.

Defensive Reactions

Some employees may take constructive criticism and other forms of feedback as a personal attack. When their work or ideas don’t get the expected reaction, they may take a defensive stance and argue about why they’re right. Managing conflict means reassuring the person that the feedback is intended to help them rather than have a problem with what they’re doing.

Lack of Consistency

How often do workflows, policies, and procedures help change your organization? If employees need to relearn how to do basic work tasks regularly, they’ll never figure out a routine that works best for their productivity. Misunderstandings about new ways of doing things can lead to conflicts without a good solution, especially if the new policies can be interpreted in different ways.

Concern about the Past Repeating

Employees’ perspectives are not based solely on their workplace experience. They’re bringing all of their past professional and personal history with them, which can help influence whether they’re likely to cause conflict, are conflict-averse, and what that looks like for them. Toxic work environments, abusive coworkers and bosses, and other bad experiences can lead someone to react poorly in conflict situations. Make sure you know where the person is coming from and potential reminders that would elicit these reactions. You can then help them create a workable conflict solution method for everyone involved.

How to effectively resolve conflict

Effectively resolving conflicts begins with having the right skills. Having these skills at your disposal to respond appropriately to each situation. Resolving conflict together with your team is not a one-size-fits-all process. The dynamics between people, the team, and the company all come into play and should be considered throughout the process. 

Some people get frustrated, let all of that aggression out, and they are perfectly fine to continue on their day. Others end up thinking about the conflict for days, weeks, or months afterward. All of their subsequent interactions are colored by an unresolved conflict, creating a passive-aggressive workplace. Use these important management skills and solutions to effectively and efficiently address conflict with your team.

Here are the top methods and skills you can use to resolve conflicts.

Clarify the Source of Conflict

Fully understanding the conflict source from the perspective of the conflicting parties is essential. Once you know what the perceived problem is, you can move forward with taking steps to resolve it. 

Shift Your Mindset

Start with the way you think about conflict. Do you view it as a necessary evil when you make employees work together in a group setting? Are you dreading dealing with it because it eats up all of your time and gets in the way of other tasks? If you would bring that approach to conflicts, it could lead to escalation, either through inactivity or a negative way of handling the situation. View each conflict as a way to learn more about the way your team members operate, what they need to contribute in a meaningful way, how you can help encourage employee engagement initiatives and the ways they respond to a course correction.

Learn more about your people’s workstyles and motivations before speaking with them. It will help you understand where they’re coming from. Start here.

Actively Listen

You can’t resolve problems when you don’t know what’s going on. It’s important to listen to others, ask clarifying questions, and dig into what’s going on. Make sure you find out if there are extenuating circumstances that would lead to an uncharacteristic outburst, or look for external factors that may be influencing others. When you listen, you’re going to spend a lot less time talking than the parties involved in the conflict, as you want them to feel heard at this moment. Once you communicate with both parties and get each side of the story, you can develop a method for resolving conflict with everyone.

Facilitate Conversations

Part of active listening facilitates the conversation and encourages each person to talk through what happened. They may find insights on their own that clear up miscommunications or truly understand what went on. Asking the right questions at the right time will progress the narrative and lead everyone to a resolution.

Practice Empathy

You need to put yourself in a person’s shoes and understand why they’re reacting the way they are and what they need to support each party in the conflict. You want to relate to them and ensure that you know what they’re saying is being heard.

Mediating Between Team Members

Another valuable skill in conflict resolution is effectively mediating between team members when you know they have conflicts with one another. It takes a lot of work to get two upset team members to sit down and have a productive conversation. When you can smooth everything over in a mediation setting, it’s much easier to resolve conflict before it gets out of hand.

Taking Accountability

If you’re one of the people involved in the conflict, it’s important to take accountability for your actions. You may not have intended to cause a problem, but something went wrong, and you want to own up for it. When you lead by example and take responsibility for escalating a situation, you show team members how healthy conflict solutions are achieved.

Practice Transparency

Transparency is another skill that’s useful to develop for conflict management. When you’re transparent about the decisions you make regarding resolving the conflict between team members, then you can avoid accusations of favoring one party or being biased towards another person. Communicate proactively to keep all parties up to date on the situation and how it’s being resolved.


Stand behind your conflict resolution methods and be authentic with your team. They don’t want to hear you go over a scripted, one-size-fits-all approach to addressing their concerns. Make it personal to the situation and everyone involved. Use this customized approach to understand the unique situation that each person might find themselves in and how they resolve conflict.

Frame Discussions Objectively

When you are discussing the conflict, stick to objectives and not emotion. For example, state “we want to come to a fair agreement on where to put the printer.” Focusing on the desired outcome and objective will help resolve the conflict quicker. Plus, it gets the conflicting parties in sight of the resolution.

Change Management

If the arguments are getting set off by changes in policies, procedures, and other workplace areas, then pushing for better change management is essential. Change management is the process that an organization uses to resolve large-scale changes, like new software being deployed or revamped policies. Employees get the training and information that they need to adjust to the new way of doing things and opportunities to provide feedback as the front-line end users that are most impacted by it.

Use Emotional Intelligence

You may be blessed with innate emotional intelligence or need to develop this over time. Focusing on emotional intelligence allows you to recognize valuable clues into how your team members feel, whether they’re truly satisfied with your resolutions and whether they’re not completely transparent about what happened. You can also use this skill to improve workplace relationships in general, as this is often a common characteristic in a people person.

Evaluate How Things Are Going

Check in with each conflicting party routinely. The only way to know for sure how they are responding is to communicate with them.

Understand When It’s Time To Cut Your Losses

Sometimes, it’s impossible to resolve a problem between two or more people. Every time they have to interact, you feel lucky it didn’t come to blows. There are loud, drawn-out arguments, passive-aggressive remarks, and other behavior that lead to a negative work environment. Sometimes you need to transfer people to a different department or fire them outright, depending on the nature of their toxic behavior.

Conflict Resolution Guide

Resolving conflicts is important. But, if you lack experience, it may be difficult to do. Here is a step-by-step example that may help guide you. 

  • Show that you understand their side of the conflict
  • Tell them you know you’re part of the issue
  • Show that you want to resolve it with them
  • Try talking with them again later on

How to prevent conflict in the workplace

Resolving conflicts is one thing, but preventing them is entirely different. But, prevention will make your business and employees work better compared to having conflicts in the first place.

That is why managers should not only focus on resolving current conflicts, but setting up resources, training, and more to prevent them from happening in the first place. 

There are several types of conflict management tools that support your efforts in handling your team to resolve problems before they create lasting damage.

Find Better Communication Tools

Poor communication can often lead to conflicts. Managers should do their best to keep lines of communication open and available to their direct reports. Tools can be software-based, like email, chat applications (like Slack), video conferencing services, etc. 

Check out our integrations on Cloverleaf with tools you use everyday. Learn more here.

Make Time Available To Prevent And Resolve Conflict

What does your schedule look like throughout the day? Do you have availability to meet with team members one-on-one to discuss conflicts, or are you in meetings and doing other tasks that take you away from your desk, email, and other communication channels? Try to free up a consistent time slot, so your team will know that you’ll always be available to talk with them.

When a manager offers open communication channels, they can increase the likelihood that someone will come to you first before a conflict escalates out of hand.

Proactively Address Conflict

Once you have the tools and systems in place for conflict resolution, try to get ahead of it if possible. Make sure you learn the tell-tale signs that your team has before someone is about to get into an incident. When you can step in as soon as you recognize these signs, you can create a more positive work environment and reduce the chances that the conflict will cause lasting harm to the parties involved.

Create Better Team Engagement

Weekly team meetings with an “around the room” discussion can help prevent conflicts from arising. Additionally, team-building exercises, team lunches, etc. can build comradery and prevent conflicts.

Treat Every Employee Fairly

Having a “teacher’s pet” is not good for the morale of the team. Don’t pick favorites. Treat all team members the same – with respect and encouragement. 

Addressing the Elephant in the Room

Being conflict-avoidant leads to much larger problems later on. The workplace has a tension that never quite goes away, and problematic situations can drive off-key talent and lead to lower productivity. As a manager, you may fail to get the respect that you expect because the team doesn’t find conflict avoidance as a favorable trait. Your reputation for handling situations would be damaged as a manager, leading to upward mobility problems. Get rid of your fear and discomfort when it comes to calling out conflict when it’s appropriate.

Broaden Perspective Through Coaching and Technology

Sometimes an external perspective is important to finding out the reasons behind conflict and creating resolution methods favorable for your team and common conflict situations you encounter. A third-party coaching service, especially one backed by powerful technology that delivers actionable insights, makes it possible to have an objective view of everyone involved in a conflict. One such service, Cloverleaf, does a good job of combining personalized coaching with data-driven insights, so you’re empowered to resolve any level of team conflict.

Cloverleaf Product Mockup

How Does Cloverleaf Help?

Often, team conflicts can lead to many short and long-term issues in an organization, so having tried and tested conflict management methods in place is an essential part of improving the work environment and team dynamics. Conflict management is one of the biggest parts of having a job as a manager. Cloverleaf is a versatile conflict solution that prepares you for each possible incident through conflict prevention and in-the-moment insights.

Cloverleaf guides your company to understand top-performing teams’ characteristics and what you need to do to get to that point. Their expertise and outside perspective can show you insights that you’re not able to see when you’re in the middle of trying to resolve a conflict within or between teams, departments, and individuals.

We have an integrated approach that uses assessment data and conflict resolution coaching to develop a process that fits your organization’s unique needs. You end up with stronger team relationships and productivity over time, along with happier overall employees.

One area in our job focus is discovering the “why” behind conflicts. We are good at digging deep into the circumstances surrounding the conflict to gain a complete understanding of what’s going on, whether external forces are escalating the situation, and recommendations on how to resolve conflicts in the individuals or teams.

We effectively help you stand out in your industry and make it possible to increase the value that you provide your customers. Our Automated Coaching™ solution results in actionable insights that empower you with the information you need to create lasting behavior change. It becomes easier to communicate with empathy, eliminate the barriers that stand between you, and resolve conflict.

It’s important to understand that conflicts are not a result of you failing as a manager. Instead, it’s a natural part of working with people and becoming the best they can be in their careers. Conflict resolution managers are a valuable asset for all organizations.


Conflict resolution involves a process that the conflicting parties can use to come to a peaceful resolution. As a manager, you can implement policies, facilitate open communication, and improve your team’s morale to prevent conflicts. 

If you’d like to further improve your conflict resolution skills, learn more about Cloverleaf for teams.