Interpersonal Conflict in the Workplace – What is the Solution?

The impact of interpersonal conflict within a business can be detrimental in many ways, from having an immediate impact on productivity and morale, to longer term cultural fall out across the organisation.

While there are many causes of interpersonal conflict in the workplace, for example, communication problems, gossip and personality clashes, the solution needs to be given careful consideration. Mediation can be an effective tool in addressing any form of conflict, particularly when used in the early stages.

What is Mediation?

Mediation, as defined by the Mediation Act 2017, is a “confidential, facilitative and voluntary process in which parties to a dispute, with the assistance of a mediator, attempt to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve the dispute”. But, what does this really mean?

1. Impartial Facilitation

Mediation involves a qualified third-party facilitating a respectful discussion between two people who are involved in conflict or a dispute. The mediator is completely impartial – they do not have an agenda and will not be influenced by workplace politics. The impartiality that an external mediator provides, ensures that both individuals feel that the process is fair.

2. Calm Environment

The Mediator creates a calm environment where there are ground rules for maintaining respect and dignity of both individuals. Any behaviour that is aggressive or disrespectful is prohibited throughout the mediation process. This allows for proactive discussion that is not derailed by disruptive behaviour, such as name-calling. This discussion is guided by the mediator to ultimately enable the creation of viable and fair solutions.  

3. Individuals Feel Heard

A lot of interpersonal conflict in the workplace is due to misunderstandings and ineffective communication. Mediation gives individuals the opportunity to explain their point of view and to hear each other. This may be the first time that the individuals get to voice what has caused this conflict, and oftentimes, this can be enough to decompress the tension in the relationship.

4. It Creates Two Winners

Unlike other forms of conflict resolution, mediation ensures both parties are treated equally. This is because the solution is developed by both people involved in the mediation - everyone ‘wins’. Both parties agree to a solution that works for them, rather than a solution being forced onto them.

5. Minor Time Investment

Mediation yields big rewards and yet involves a small investment of time. The mediation meeting itself usually takes about two hours, with two pre-mediation meetings taking about an hour each. For employees, this minor investment of time means that their working environment becomes less pressured, thus increasing morale and productivity.

6. Focus on Feelings

Mediation focuses on the human element of conflict – feelings. By focusing on how the conflict has made each person feel, the participants feel validated and understood. Focusing on feelings also enables a better understanding of one another, which improves relationships through empathy and creating a new point-of-view.

Even minor conflicts in the workplace can make employees feel undervalued, distracted and stressed. By introducing an impartial third-party, staff are able to talk to each other in a safe, non-judgmental environment. A solution can be agreed within a couple of hours, and both individuals can resume their normal working life. If you are an employer or a manager, you should be aware of the options available when employees are engaged in conflict or a dispute.

For more information on Workplace Resolution and how BDO Eaton Square can help your business, contact [email protected] or call (01) 470 0518. Alternatively visit