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Can this conflict even be resolved?

As a young coach I was convinced everyone was coachable and every conflict was resolvable. As with many other convictions from my youth, I had to learn the hard way: not everyone is receptive to coaching and not every conflict can be resolved.

So how can you determine whether a conflict is still salvageable?

I like to use the conflict ladder introduced by Glasl as a starting point.

This conflict ladder outlines three distinct zones:

  1. win-win,

  2. win-lose,

  3. lose-lose.

In the initial phase, known as "win-win," conflicts are still manageable within the team itself. By employing effective communication skills, dedication, and a willingness to invest time and effort, teams can navigate through challenges and arrive at mutually beneficial resolutions.

As conflicts escalate into the "win-lose" phase, the situation becomes more complex. In this stage, resolution often requires the intervention of a third party, such as a coach, mediator, or expert. Their objective perspective and guidance can help mediate disputes and facilitate constructive dialogue among team members.

In the third phase, "lose-lose," conflicts reach a critical point where more severe action is necessary. This may involve ending the collaboration, restructuring the team, or implementing other significant changes. At this stage, the conflict cannot be resolved internally, and even the assistance of a mediator may not suffice. The parties involved may no longer have the willingness to invest in finding a resolution, necessitating decisive action to address the underlying issues.

Understanding the progression along the conflict ladder is crucial for teams to identify the appropriate strategies and interventions needed to address conflicts effectively. By recognizing which phase a conflict falls into, teams can take proactive steps to mitigate tensions and foster a culture of collaboration and problem-solving.

My main takeaways:

  1. Address conflicts as soon as possible;

  2. Seek outside help if needed;

  3. Avoid investing excessive time and energy if the conflict has escalated too far; consider exploring alternative solutions.

I hope this helps clarify any conflicts you're working through. If you're feeling stuck or unsure which phase of the conflict ladder you're in, don't hesitate to reach out for a quick chat!

Send me an email at


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