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Script: How to resolve a conflict between colleagues

A quick-grab script to help prepare for the conversation.

Time to read: 2 mins

Disagreements are inevitable when people spend a lot of time together at work and come from very disparate backgrounds and viewpoints. It can cause a lot of pain, frustration, discomfort and anger. Don’t try and avoid it as issues will occur and can escalate quickly if not dealt with efficiently and effectively. 

As a people leader, your role is as a mediator in these situations. If you are too close to the scenario to be impartial then ask another manager to take on this role. 

Take a positive and assertive approach and try and identify the source of the issue so you can neutralise the situation or hopefully turn a negative situation into a positive one. You can meet individually with both parties initially (the first step below) but to speed up the process you might want to do all of this as one joint session (depending on the scale of the problem). Meet somewhere privately and neutral and set some ground rules for the meeting (e.g. being respectful of each other’s viewpoints, allowing each other to talk, not raising voices etc).


Hi [insert names of both parties], we’re all here to try and resolve the issues that have come up between you and I’m going to act as a mediator to try and help us move forward. I will be impartial in this process so won’t be taking sides. We all need to understand what is the cause of this disagreement. I’m going to invite you both to share your perspectives and background. Firstly, [insert Person A’s name] can you tell me how things have got to this situation and what you believe the issue to be?


Let them talk but keep it factual and not personal. Ask questions to clarify the source of the issues for your own and both parties benefit. Summarise as needed and note down the main points you hear using their language. 


I’m now going to invite [insert Person B’s name] to outline what you believe to be the source of this disagreement and how we’ve got to this situation?


Give them equal time to Person A. Let them talk but keep it factual and not personal. Ask questions to clarify the source of the disagreement for your own and both parties benefit. Summarise as needed and note down the main points you hear using their language. Seek agreement to the cause of the disagreement from both sides and confirm their mutual understanding of what has happened and why they’ve got to this point before moving on so you can deal with the right issue.

Depending on how complex the issues are, you may need more time to fully investigate the issues e.g. talking to third parties that might have been involved, digging deeper to understand what’s gone on or just taking time to reflect on what’s come up so far. In which case set up a further meeting to try and conclude the matter. Explore if there may be other underlying causes that might not have been expressed or might not be apparent at first.

Ideally, if you can, and if both parties are in agreement to this approach. try and resolve it in this one meeting. 


Now that we’ve agreed on what the nature of the disagreement is, we all need to find a way to resolve it and to stop it occurring it again. Are you both in agreement to finding a solution to this?  


Do either of you have any ideas on how we can sort this out?


Allow both parties to contribute equally and brainstorm all options initially without dismissing any ideas. Make a note of them all and quickly evaluate those that could work e.g. where both people have suggested something similar.


It seems like [insert the specific way forward, suggestion, idea]  might be an option that we could take.  What do you both think of that as a possible solution?


to each viewpoint equally and fairly and try and find common ground, even if they are initially not fully aligned. Tweak the solution til everyone feels comfortable with that as a way forward.

How to respond to pushback:

One side might try and derail the process, or might make it personal, in which case, be objective and assertive in trying to get them on board and keeping things factual, closing them down as you need to, in order to move forward. 

Outline the consequences for them both if not resolved. One or both parties might be resistant to finding a solution. In that case try and find some common alignment and you may need to settle on a way forward that they might not be entirely happy with but can live with. Remind them of your company’s objectives and the need for you all to move on from this.  

How to wrap up the convo:

Summarise what you’ve discussed and agreed as a way forward and outline clearly their individual responsibilities in making this happen. Invite them to make any further comments, raise any other concerns they have and ask how they are both feeling at the end of the meeting (it may be a relief for them to have cleared the air and moved on too).

Quick note

Our scripts have been written to support and prepare for tricky conversations. We'd suggest running through key points with your HR team beforehand and following any relevant guidance and legislation.

Next steps to consider

Review how things are going and put preventative measures in place to avoid the issues re-occurring. Make a note of the agreement and share it with all the parties involved. Keep an eye on the issues to see if the solution has been effective, If not take the necessary action to address this.


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