Tips For EAP Practitioners: Mediating Interpersonal Conflict In The Workplace | EAPA-SA

Interpersonal conflict between employees’ leads to wasted time, loss of productivity, grievances and even litigation; and it can also lead to absenteeism and employee turnover. However, if interpersonal conflict is handled professionally, the outcome can result in employees gaining mutual respect and a bonding between the people affected.

Interpersonal conflict is typically caused by factors, such as:

  • Poor communication
  • Grievances – both of an extremely serious nature or perceived by an individual to be serious
  • Spatial relationships – particularly in crowded work spaces
  • Envy
  • Personal dislike of one person for another
  • Prejudice based on religious, racial or sexual differences


Interpersonal conflict can give rise to gossip that not only perpetuates the conflict between the direct parties involved, but can also affect other members of a team.

Here are 5 tips for dealing with interpersonal conflict:


  1. Act immediately

Conflicts do not go away without active resolution. Unresolved conflicts can lie dormant only to explode down the line. Unresolved workplace conflicts can very quickly impact negatively on a workplace climate or culture. Whole teams are affected as conflict spreads and other employees become involved. Productivity, performance and workplace relationships are impacted as the knock-on effects of conflict take hold.


  1. Use active listening

Listen to each party’s side of the story in an open and non-judgmental manner.  Remind each of them that having an open discussion is the best way to resolve a conflict, and that avoiding the problem for will only make matters worse.


  1. Deal with Conflict collaboratively

After meeting with each party individually, sit down with both of your employees and explain how you perceive the situation. After you are done speaking give each person a chance express their side of the story.


  1. Create a supportive atmosphere

It is a good idea to meet outside of the office so as not to draw attention to the employees involved. Make it clear that you are not   taking sides and that your role is that of a neutral mediator. You are there to help both parties come together and to facilitate mutual understanding, not to point fingers or force a resolution.


  1. Clearly state expectations for future behaviour

Summarise the statements of both parties and provide specific points for each party to take from the situation. Provide useful suggestions as to how further conflict can be avoided in the future and how your employees can come to terms with each other.

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