HR Toolkit

HR Policies & Employment Legislation

Sample Policies on Common HR Topics

Conflict resolution

Conflict exists in every organization and to a certain extent indicates a healthy exchange of ideas and creativity. However, counter-productive conflict can result in employee dissatisfaction, reduced productivity, poor service to clients, absenteeism and increased employee turnover, increased work-related stress or litigation based on claims of harassment or a hostile work environment. In addition to the productivity and cost benefits of timely conflict resolution, employee morale is higher when employees believe there is a fair and consistent process, which goes beyond their immediate supervisor, for dealing with conflict.

The conflict resolution policy should promote open communication and foster a safe environment for addressing differences of opinions. There should be a clear statement protecting employees from retribution for raising legitimate complaints and concerns using the conflict resolution process.

Conflict resolution policies and procedures often implement a progression of interventions, escalating the involvement of management and formal procedures based on the seriousness of the conflict and the inability of the parties to resolve differences on their own. Unionized environments often use the formalized grievance procedure for conflict resolution, as dictated by the collective agreement.

Legal requirements

Harassment can be a source of conflict, and organizations have a legal responsibility to provide a harassment-free work place. Refer to your provincial human rights legislation regarding harassment and the work environment. While a conflict resolution policy may provide a first step in dealing with harassment, organizations typically address harassment complaints with a policy and set of procedures specifically designed for that purpose - see the harassment policy guideline.

Alternative methods of conflict resolution

Methods of conflict resolution that can be included in your organization's policy and procedures, include:

An informal complaint process

An informal complaint process involves discussing the issue with an immediate supervisor to collaboratively understand and resolve work related issues with co-workers or the supervisor. The policy and procedures may outline specific steps and objectives, communication styles and behaviours that employees and supervisors should use in order to effectively resolve conflicts in the informal complaint process.

A one-up review

A one-up review involves discussing the issue with the one-up supervisor, again to collaboratively understand and resolve work related issues.

A formal complaint process

A formal complaint process involves making a formal (written or oral) complaint to an appointed "conflict resolution manager" (often the HR professional on staff or the executive director), who then conducts an investigation of the complaint and recommends a resolution. It is important to outline the scope of the investigation, and how issues of confidentiality will be handled during this process. Confidentiality can be a particularly sensitive aspect of conflict resolution resulting from harassment complaints (refer to harassment policy guideline.)

Some voluntary organizations involve the Board or Board Executive in conflict resolution, as a final step in the formal complaint process. If involving the Board in the complaint process, it is advisable to specify only one or two members to participate in the process, in order to both maintain confidentiality and Board focus on strategic, rather than operational, activities. Often it is the President who takes on this responsibility, or alternatively a board member who has specific experience or training in conflict resolution.


Mediation may be used in a non-unionized or unionized organization. Mediation is a process involving an objective third party. The mediator (the objective third party) is often the HR professional on staff or another employee who is trained in conflict resolution, or can be an external professional mediator. The mediator guides the conflicting parties in considering alternative resolutions.


Arbitration is most commonly used in a unionized environment. Arbitration is a process involving a professional arbitrator who considers both sides of a conflict and issues a binding decision. Arbitration is a costly process, and as such may not be a viable option for many voluntary sector organizations. A cost benefit analysis should be conducted to determine the value of using arbitration, rather than other legal actions, to resolve conflict. Arbitration is a lengthy, difficult and costly process. At the end of the process, the parties have relinquished control to a third party and the prescribed resolution may be less than favourable. Arbitration should always be a last resort when resolution by every other possible means has reached an impasse.

Excellent Website

The Canadian Department of Justice provides options for some of more common techniques of conflict management and dispute resolution.

Implementing conflict resolution

Conflict resolution is a skill based in good communication practices and an understanding of interpersonal dynamics - therefore, successful implementation of conflict resolution policies and procedures is often contingent on providing supervisors with appropriate training and coaching on the policy, procedures and interpersonal skills.

Sample policies

Grievance Procedure - National Organization (PDF - 41KB)

  • Outlines the procedure for dealing with a grievance
  • Outlines the procedure for submitting a grievance to arbitration

Problem Resolution - National Organization (PDF - 46KB)

  • Sets the tone for a positive work environment
  • List informal and formal conflict resolution and complaints procedures