Six tips for managing and resolving conflict at your restaurant or foodservice operation

By Carola Hicks

Conflict is a normal and necessary part of healthy relationships. People can’t be expected to agree on everything at all times. Learning how to deal with conflict, rather than avoiding it, is crucial.

When conflict is mismanaged, it can harm relationships, but when handled in a respectful and positive way, conflict provides an opportunity for growth and strengthens the bond between workers. By learning skills needed for successful conflict resolution, you can face disagreements with confidence to build strong personal and professional relationships.

Conflicts arise from differing needs

It is important to recognize that everyone’s needs are important and that everyone deserves respect and consideration. In workplace conflicts, differing needs are often at the heart of bitter disputes. Recognizing the legitimacy of conflicting needs and acknowledging them with concern and understanding opens pathways to positive problem solving, team building and improved relationships.

Conflict resolution tips

Managing and resolving conflict requires the ability to quickly reduce stress and bring emotions into balance.

  • Listen for what is felt as well as said. When we listen, we better connect to needs and emotions – for ourselves and for others. Listening in this way strengthens us, informs us, and makes it easier for others to hear us.
  • Make conflict resolution the priority rather than “being right.” Maintaining and strengthening a relationship, rather than “winning” an argument, should always be your first priority. Be respectful of the other person and his or her viewpoint.
  • Focus on the present. If you’re holding on to old hurts and resentments, your ability to see the reality of the current situation will be impaired. Focus on what you can do in the here-and-now to solve the problem.
  • Pick your battles. Conflicts can be draining, so it’s important to consider whether the issue is really worth your time and energy.
  • Be willing to forgive. Resolving conflict is impossible if you’re unwilling to forgive. Resolution lies in releasing the urge to punish or retaliate.
  • Know when to let something go. If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument going. If a conflict is going nowhere, you can choose to disengage and move on.

If you are in the service or hospitality industry, you know what you are selling is customer satisfaction. Restaurants don’t sell food; they sell service, luxury and comfort. It doesn’t matter what service or hospitality industry you’re in, you live and die by customer service and customer satisfaction! Financial institutions sell service. Insurance companies sell service and support. Meeting the customer service challenge is difficult; it takes management commitment certainly, but very importantly, it also takes:

  • staff skilled in conflict prevention with clients and customers
  • staff skilled in “recovery” (ie: what you do when things go wrong with service)
  • staff who don’t waste time in internal squabbling and conflict with coworkers
  • teamwork

Resolving conflicts is a creative act. There are many solutions to a single problem. The key is a willingness to seek compromises. It is usually the wiser, more mature person who seeks an acceptable solution.

About the author:

Carola Hicks is CEO of Workplace Safety Group, providing leading-edge, online and in-class health and safety consultation and training programs to associations and specialty industries across Canada. Carola can be reached at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *