If the conflict in your workplace has risen to a level that your existing executives and Human Resources professionals can’t diffuse the situation, it may be time to bring in an outside facilitator. However, working with a business consultant to resolve ongoing workplace conflict necessarily means releasing some control over the process, and possibly the outcomes. Find out what to expect during facilitated dispute resolution, and what the outcome might look like.

The Cost and Benefit of Conflict in the Workplace

Conflict is a normal part of business life. In fact, there are some who say it is only through conflict that companies move forward. It pushes business owners to try new things and look at their work in new ways.

But conflict can also be exceptionally expensive. It can cost hours of lost and unproductive staff hours, can interfere with employees doing their work, and in the most severe cases, can even result in the loss of skilled employees. When your staff becomes unable or unwilling to live with the hostility of the workplace, a conflict between coworkers can leave you scrambling to fill vacancies and protect your corporate culture.

When to Use Facilitated Dispute Resolution

Distinguishing healthy disagreements from unhealthy conflict can be difficult. A skilled manager or leader can often meet with frustrated workers and resolve day-to-day disagreements that arise. However, when conflict goes unaddressed, or becomes systemic, it can sometimes become too big to handle internally. Facilitated dispute resolution is particularly well suited to address issues that:

  • Involve the owners or executives of the company
  • Become emotional and personal
  • Create conflicts of interest among would-be decision-makers (including family business owners)
  • Affect workplace culture
  • Involve collective bargaining or employee rights
  • Are based on a lack of policies or systems

What Happens During Facilitated Dispute Resolution

Facilitated dispute resolution is not arbitration or mediation. Your independent facilitator won’t generally prescribe what must happen to resolve the conflict. Nor will it simply involve hashing through the conflict with everyone at the table. Instead, facilitated dispute resolution is a process that identifies the core causes of conflict in the workplace, listens to the different sides, and frames the conflict in a way that everyone involved can agree to proposed resolutions. In many cases, this involves the facilitator:

  • Observing the workplace culture
  • Interviewing the individuals involved and their superiors, coworkers, and direct reports
  • Assessing the practical and emotional motivators of the conflict
  • Inviting participants to buy in to corporate priorities
  • Explaining how conflict interferes with those priorities
  • Recommending new behaviors and strategies to reduce and resolve conflict
  • Asking employees to commit to changes that work toward conflict resolution
  • Providing ongoing support, including coaching, to help those involved honor their commitments

How it Looks When the Conflict is Over

Facilitated conflict resolution is done when the conflict is resolved, not just for the moment, but for the foreseeable future. It involves adopting new practices, processes, and strategies that address disputes as they arise and prevent them from becoming time-consuming and expensive conflict in the future.

Employees who complete the facilitated conflict resolution process often feel more committed to the goals and priorities of the company. Their working relationships with their coworkers and supervisors improve. Often, they learn new communication strategies that change the way they interact with the business, its employees, and even its customers. This can lead to improved workplace efficiency, team cohesion, and customer service. Best of all, employees feel heard and respected within the company, and are far less likely to look elsewhere to escape a hostile corporate culture.

Facilitated dispute resolution is a useful tool any time conflict arises at work in a way that interferes with business being done. You and your employees don’t have to tiptoe around interpersonal minefields to keep the company moving forward. You can work with a skilled facilitator to resolve your workplace dispute and get your entire team back on track.


David Stanislaw is an organizational development specialist with over 30 years’ experience helping employees and companies resolve workplace disputes. Through facilitated conflict resolution, David helps small and medium-sized businesses reduce conflict in their workplaces and relieve interpersonal issues among their employees. Contact us to meet with David to move toward conflict resolution today.