A conflict protocol for teams

While conflicts within a team are often seen as negative, they can also have positive aspects. Conflict can bring diverse perspectives and ideas to the surface. When conflicts are addressed in a respectful way, it allows individuals to gain a deeper understanding of each other’s perspectives, values, and concerns. Through this process, relationships can be strengthened as team members learn to empathize and appreciate different viewpoints.

However, during conflicts emotions may be so strong that the team cannot handle them in a respectful and constructive way. It is important for the team to have a protocol for how to get out of this non-constructive mode.

A conflict protocol is the conflict resolution process for addressing conflicts in a constructive and fair way. Here are some key elements of a good conflict protocol:

  • Train the team members to be able to give feedback that describes specific behaviours and does not make it personal.
  • Define acceptable behaviours and boundaries. Ask the question:
    • “How would the ideal team behave in an escalating conflict? What are the DOs and what are the DON’Ts”. Make a note of the important behaviours and principles. For example, a summary might include some principles such as: Address the conflict openly; Talk directly to the person with whom you have a conflict first; Take a break; Involve a neutral third party.
  • Identify the learning opportunity and the team’s needs for improvement in order to be able to deal with conflict.
  • Create a development plan and get team members to commit to it individually.


Teams that avoid conflict will find it difficult to have these discussions. Be mindful, empathetic and slow. Explain the benefits and try to gently help the team to have the difficult discussions..

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