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Chapter 15: Conflict Resolution

In most conflicts, neither party is right or wrong; instead, different perceptions collide to create disagreement. Conflict is natural and it's up to you to respond to conflict situations quickly and professionally. Conflict can be very positive; if you deal with it openly, you can strengthen your work unit by correcting problems. Conflicting views give you a chance to learn more about yourself, explore views of others, and develop productive relationships. Clear and open communication is the cornerstone of successful conflict resolution.

Managing diversity well can enhance conflict resolution; Chapter 12, Managing Diversity in the Workplace, offers information and resources in this important area.

Dealing With Anger

When you meet with someone who is angry, you can use the tools of effective listening to help defuse this anger. Nevertheless, when anger is directed at you, it is much more difficult to respond definitively, because your own emotions are usually involved.

To effectively defuse anger, keep in mind the needs of the angry speaker:

When you're listening to an angry person:

Guiding Principles

By resolving conflicts skillfully, you can:

Other Resources

  • Office of the Ombuds
  • Faculty and Staff Assistance Program
  • Labor and Employee Relations
  • Resolving Conflict Situations

    To manage conflict effectively you must be a skilled communicator. That includes creating an open communication environment in your unit by encouraging employees to talk about work issues. Listening to employee concerns will foster an open environment. Make sure you really understand what employees are saying by asking questions and focusing on their perception of the problem. To learn more about communication skills, see Chapter 13, Communication.

    Whether you have two employees who are fighting for the desk next to the window or one employee who wants the heat on and another who doesn't, your immediate response to conflict situations is essential. Here are some tips you can use when faced with employees who can't resolve their own conflicts.

    Mediation is an option to help resolve and manage conflicts as early as possible. The Campus Mediation Program provides a confidential and neutral setting for individuals to meet to discuss issues and develop mutually acceptable solutions. Mediation at UCSF emphasizes open communication and problem-solving and is facilitated by trained mediators. Individuals who participate in mediation do so voluntarily.


    Mediation may be considered when a grievance has been filed by a represented employee. Grievances involving "working relationships", interpersonal communication or uncertainty regarding expectations are examples of problems typically considered for mediation. Mediation is not the formal venue for negotiating formal discipline without the involvement of department management and the appropriate Labor and Employee Relations Analyst. If all parties agree (the manager, employee, Labor and Employee Relations and the bargaining unit), it is possible to "stop the clock" on grievance processing so that parties can use mediation to determine whether they can reach a mutually acceptable resolution.


    You are welcome to contact the Office of the Ombuds at any time to discuss whether a situation or problem may benefit from mediation or assist with strategizing and identifying other resources.