The Do’s and Don’ts of Conflict Management for Higher Ed Leaders

Higher Ed Leadership Series

Being a leader in higher education is no easy task, especially as a woman of color in executive roles– we often care about the additional weight of navigating institutional dynamics while advocating for ourselves and our teams. Conflict is inevitable in any workplace, but how we handle it can significantly impact our effectiveness and the culture of our institutions. 

Too often, we might rush to resolve issues too quickly or avoid them altogether, hoping they will disappear. However, embracing conflict as a powerful tool for creativity and growth is essential for becoming an empowered leader. In this blog, we’ll explore conflict management’s do’s and don’ts to help you learn to lead confidently and with finesse. 

How to Lead Through Conflict In the Workplace

Conflict management in higher education requires a thoughtful approach that fosters understanding and collaboration. Here are some key strategies to guide you through the process:


  • Know When To Intervene: Effective leaders recognize the right moment to step in. Intervene early before conflicts escalate and become unmanageable, but ensure you clearly understand the issues at hand. 
  • Be Empathetic: Show empathy to all parties involved. Understanding their perspectives and emotions can help de-escalate tensions and facilitate a more productive discussion. 
  • Encourage Open Communication: Promote a psychologically safe environment where team members can openly express their thoughts and concerns. Open communication is the cornerstone of resolving conflicts constructively. 
  • Meet the Antagonists Together: Bring the conflicting parties together to discuss their issues directly. Facilitating a face-to-face conversation can help clarify misunderstandings and foster mutual respect. 
  • Make Sure All Participants Discuss and Commit: Ensure that everyone involved in the conflict participates in the discussion and commits to the agreed-upon solutions. This collective commitment is important for the resolution to be effective and lasting. 
  • Keep An Open Mind; Listen & Be Open To New Solutions: Approach the conflict with an open mind. Listen actively to all viewpoints and be willing to consider new and innovative solutions arising from the discussion. 


  • Ignore The Tension: Avoidance is not a solution. Ignoring conflicts can lead to bigger issues down the line, as unresolved tensions can fester and impact team dynamics and productivity. 
  • Focus On Personality Traits: Concentrate on the specific behaviors and actions that need to be addressed rather than attributing the conflict to personal traits. This helps in finding constructive solutions without creating defensiveness. 
  • Interrupt, Attack, or Blame Individuals During Discussions: Maintain a respectful and professional tone during conflict resolution discussions. Interruptions, attacks, and blame can escalate the situation and hinder resolution. 
  • Allow Emotions to Lead the Conversation: While emotions are a natural part of conflict, they should not dominate the conversation. Stay focused on the facts and work towards a logical and fair resolution. 
  • Impose Your Own Personal Values or Beliefs: Do not impose your values or beliefs on others. Encourage a respectful dialogue that acknowledges and respects the diverse perspectives within your teams. 

What Are The Next Steps?

Once you’ve navigated the conflict, taking proactive steps is important to ensure lasting resolution and continued team cohesion. Here are a few steps to consider:

  • Follow-up: Regularly check in with the parties involved to ensure that the resolution is held and to address any lingering issues. 
  • Reflect and Learn: Reflect on the conflict and its resolution to understand what worked well and what could be improved for future situations. 
  • Promote a Positive Culture: Encourage a culture of open communication and mutual respect to prevent conflicts from arising and to handle them effectively when they do. 

Successful Conflict Management Skills

Conflict management is a vital skill for leaders in higher education. By embracing conflicts and addressing them thoughtfully, we can transform challenges into opportunities for growth and creativity. If you’re ready to enhance your leadership skills and confidently navigate conflicts, I invite you to book a call to learn about our leadership coaching programs. Together, we can build the tools and strategies you need to lead with strength and grace. Let’s turn conflict into a catalyst for positive change and innovation in our institutions. 

Leave a Reply

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