Sample Agenda- Managing Conflict

Take a look at the Managing Conflict Overview.

Sample Agenda: Managing Conflict

Time Needed:  100-120 minutes
Purpose:  For participants to begin to identify how conflict differs between people
Materials: Flipchart/whiteboard and paper/pen for taking notes

Session Introduction (10 minutes)

  • Welcome to the session
  • Overview of agenda
  • Goals for the session

Select your opening prompt

Here are some questions that have been successfully used for managing conflict:

  • What is conflict?
  • What does conflict look like at work?
  • What supports the team and what holds it back?
  • What is constructive feedback?
  • What does collaboration look like?

Carefully consider your group when selecting the opening question for managing conflict. You can use the process for proactive prevention all the way through using it for groups with high levels of conflict. For some groups, you’ll want to take a more indirect route than others. For example, if people have been unsuccessfully fighting, they may be exhausted and frustrated and not want to talk about their perceived issues any more. Other groups may get angry if they feel you are avoiding the issue. The assessment phase of your preparation is critical.

If you are getting a range of input that is inconsistent, you may have widely differing conflict styles. In that case, start with a question like, “What is conflict?” or “What does conflict look like at work?” Clearly state that you want participants to focus on the topic of conflict, not the specificity of the conflict they are experiencing. Some people will not be able to separate the two, but that’s just more information to work with, and may show some of the underlying factors that are perpetuating the conflict.

Starting the Conversation (23 minutes)

2 minutes for instruction
5 minutes for creating images
16 minutes for sharing

Ask participants to quickly go through their image sets to find pictures that speak to the opening prompt:

  • What is conflict? (or alternative selection)

There are no rules about how participants can go about this part of the process. They can select as few or as many photos as they wish, and assemble them any way they wish on the their computer screen. The only limitation is time; they should finish selecting and arranging their images within 5-6 minutes.

Next, ask individual participants to share a brief story of their images. As each person shares, ask participants to listen carefully to each member and notice how people describe conflict similarly and differently.

As participants are sharing their stories, ask clarifying questions if they are needed. You can do this yourself, or explain the types of questions that participants are welcome to ask of each other and allow them to become active
questioners. Some examples include:

  • Can you tell me more?
  • What would be another example?
  • Is this what you mean? (then restate in your words)

Deepening the Conversation (15 minutes)

Note: If you are working remotely, then you may need to adjust this section. Does your phone conferencing system have the capacity to break people into small group discussions?

Working in small groups of 3-4, ask participants to begin to discuss what they have heard from each other. With the most stressed groups, have them talk in pairs. Some suggested questions:

  • What did I hear that is similar to me?
  • What did I hear that is different from my perspective?
  • How might these similarities and differences affect my experience of conflict?
  • What’s the possible impact?
  • What does this remind me of?

Narrowing the Conversation (15 minutes)

Note: If you are working remotely, then you may need to adjust this section. Does your phone conferencing system have the capacity to break people into small group discussions?

Working in small groups of 3-4, ask them to continue talking about different ways the overall group handles conflict. Did they hear differences in approach? Behavior? Values? Ideas?  Work together to decide three to five important things to consider when approaching conflict at work.

Use questions to help narrow the information such as:

  • How have we been choosing to address conflict?
  • What are the consequences?
  • What are other alternatives?
  • Where can we find alignment?

Assessing the Conversation (15 minutes)

Note: If you are doing this exercise remotely, does your system have the ability to write notes about the conversation that everyone can see? If it doesn’t, then take notes yourself or designate someone to do it and email them to everyone after the session is over.

Ask each group to share one important thing about conflict at work. Write them on a flipchart or whiteboard. Continue to share ideas that have not yet been heard until there are none left.

Ask participants if they believe the list covers everything that is important. Talk about what might be missing, and add anything the group thinks is important. Ask questions such as:

  • What can we do differently?
  • What needs to change to make it possible?

Applying the Conversation (20 minutes)

Ask participants to discuss what they can do to make conflict easier to manage at work. How can they take the things that are important and make them actionable?

Make a list of ideas and commitments to be copied for distribution to the group. Ask how they are going to follow up to make sure that the commitments are kept.

Debriefing the Conversation (12 minutes)

The debriefing section is where you help the group pull together everything they have done. It is a critical step and worth every minute invested.

Ask questions such as:

  • Did anything stand out to you about conflict?
  • Did you gain any insights?
  • Were you surprised by anything you heard?
  • Did you notice anything you could easily do to make it easier for someone else?

Closing (5 minutes)

At the end of the session, provide guidance to the participants about how to carry
the work forward after the session.


Building Great Teams is also available in a printed version.