Updated: August 27, 2022

Conflict Resolution Activities, Games & Ideas For Work in 2023

You found our list of the best conflict resolution ideas.

Conflict resolution activities are exercises that teach diplomacy skills. For example, debates and What Would You Do?. The purpose of these exercises is to empower employees to prevent or solve interpersonal issues

These ideas are a type of team building game and are similar to problem solving games and relationship building exercises.

This post contains:

  • conflict resolution activities
  • conflict resolution games
  • virtual conflict resolution ideas
  • team conflict resolution exercises
  • conflict management games

Here we go!

List of conflict resolution activities, games & ideas

Here is our list of the best conflict management games to play at work.

1. Am I the A**hole?

Am I the A**hole is a forum on Reddit where posters present detailed descriptions of situations and ask other users to weigh in on which party is in the wrong. Respondents typically give reasoning behind their judgements.

For instance:

Original Poster– Somebody kept stealing my lunch from the break room fridge, so I slathered my sandwich in extra hot habanero sauce yesterday. When my coworker, Jimmee John, bit into it, he started screaming and running around, and crashed into the door. Now, he has a baseball-sized lump on his noggin. AITA?

Response 1– No, you are not. Jimmee John should not have been stealing your lunch.

Response 2– Yes, you are. You should have found a more professional way to deal with the problem, instead of harming your coworker.

Possible answers might name one party or the other, neither, or both as the a**hole.

Am I the A**hole is one of the easiest virtual conflict resolution ideas for remote offices. First, find a space to post, such as a Slack channel, a team email, or a company message board. Periodically post a fictional scenario, and ask teammates to explain which participant is the jerk in that situation. Posters should reply so that all team members can see the answers. Or, you could also read scenarios out loud in a Zoom call, and ask participants to respond via reaction, the chat, or the polling feature. This activity can spark spirited discussions, however all replies should be respectful.

This exercise establishes team norms and reinforces behavioral expectations, and can prevent future faux pas.

Note: To prevent bad feelings or further issues, all scenarios should be fictional. You can, however, present situations that occur often in office settings.

2. Dizzy Debates

Dizzy Debates are perspective exercises. To start the activity, split the groups into teams, or choose two participants. Then, give participants an issue to debate. Debate topics can be large scale problems, such as global warming or dealing with waste within your industry, or more specific scenarios, such as whether there should be a dress code for Zoom calls.

Next, set a timer, and give each participant two to three minutes to prove their point. Then, switch sides and have participants argue the counterpoint. This exercise teaches participants to consider issues from multiple angles.

Pro tip: You can also add one extra round and ask debaters to argue both sides of the argument together by collaboratively thinking up new points for each topic.

3. You said, I heard

You said, I heard is a simple communication exercise. One team member starts by making a statement. Another teammate responds by giving their interpretation, in a “you said, I heard format.”

For example:

You said, “When will you have that report ready?”

I heard, “You’re too slow at your job.”

The first speaker then reacts with a “you heard, I meant,” statement. For instance,

You heard, “You’re too slow at your job,”

I meant, “I’m stressed out about being able to get my bosses the data they asked for on time.”

Practicing this kind of conversation helps to prevent miscommunication and misunderstanding and promotes empathy. Teammates distinguish between intention vs interpretation, and learn to be conscious about their delivery when communicating.

4. Time Traveler Troubles

Time Traveler Troubles is a fun roleplaying game. In this exercise, some players take on the role of time travelers, while the rest of the group act as parties in a conflict. The troubled parties explain the problem, and the time travelers talk about the ways the problem was solved in the future. Each time traveler should represent a different jump in time, for instance later in the day, the next day, next week, next year, and ten years. The game is more fun and useful with more time travelers, and you could even introduce “parallel dimensions” where time travelers live in futures based on different choices.

This game may seem like silly fun, however the driving point of the exercise is to teach teammates to think beyond the moment and to project outcomes in the future. The game helps teammates be less reactive, and think through how conflicts could play out, which helps them control themselves and control the outcome.

5. Conflict Confessions

Many conflict resolution activities are theoretical. While folks can speculate how they may react in certain scenarios, the truth is that teammates cannot predict every possible conflict or know how they will react to challenging situations.

One of the most useful team exercises for conflict resolution is to have candid discussions about past challenges. Simply gather in a group, then ask volunteers to share stories. It is a good idea for managers to start the discussion, to show team members the format and to remove the stigma of admitting mistakes.

While sharing the story, the presenter should touch on the following points:

  1. What was the cause
  2. What escalated the situation
  3. How was the issue resolved
  4. What I did well
  5. What I learned or what I could have done differently

If the conflict happened years in the past, then the presenter can also discuss how the problem might be solved today.

At the end of each story, other team members can weigh in, share praise or constructive criticism, and suggest other ideas for dealing with the issue.

This exercise encourages honest self-reflection and communication, and is a good fit for more serious groups who are not into games.

6. Make-Believe Mediations

Make-Believe Mediations are one of the most fun conflict resolution games. Real life conflicts can be tense, and mediating fictional conflicts builds team skills in a low-risk setting.

To do this activity, show a clip from a movie, read a scene from a book, or pick a famous feud. Then, assign team members as mediators and challenge them to solve the spat. You can have participants talk through the scenario, or act it out.

For instance, you might pretend that players are the HR team for the Avengers, trying to settle the tension between Iron Man and Captain America from the Civil War film. Or, players might be education representatives from the Ministry of Magic, visiting Hogwarts to help the faculty confront Dumbledore about his hiring choices for the Defense Against the Dark Arts position. You should pick a pop culture reference that is well-known, or one that is summarized in a short clip.

7. What Would You Do?

What Would You Do? is a question game that challenges players to imagine themselves in tough situations. For this version of the game, the prompts should focus on conflicts. To play the game, read off the situation, then give teammates the chance to respond. You can have players vote on certain actions multiple-choice style in a poll, or call on players to share answers out loud.

Some example prompts:

  • What would you do if two teammates refused to speak to each other and used you as an in between?
  • What would you do if your boss took credit for your work during a meeting?
  • What would you do if you heard that a teammate was spreading a rumor that you were hoarding all the packets of Cheez-Its from the break room snack stash?
  • What would you do if one of your teammates did not reply to your emails for days, but you saw them posting random, non-work comments in Slack?

The prompts can be funny, serious, or a mix of both. Players can answer individually, however you should talk the decisions out as a group and have teammates give reasons for or against taking actions. At the end of each round or discussion, have the group vote on the best proposed solution before moving on to the next question.

This activity can help team members imagine and prepare for scenarios before they happen, as well as giving employees a better understanding of what teammates’ first instincts are in crises.

8. Choose Your Own Adventure Stories

Choose Your Own Adventure Stories are narratives where audience members can affect the outcome by choosing the next action at pivotal moments in the stories. These stories can function as team conflict resolution exercises. Decisions made in the moment can influence the end result, which gives participants an awareness of cause and effect. Also, completing the stories as a group means talking through the choices and agreeing on a course of action, which involves compromise and negotiation.

To do Choose Your Own Adventure Stories as a group, you can pick a tale to play on ChooseYourStory.com, or write your own script with multiple outcomes. Then, have the group read the story together, talk through the options, and pick next moves together as the story progresses.

Pro tip: To get the maximum impact from this activity, have teammates talk through how they can apply Choose Your Own Adventure logic to real-world conflicts at the end of the exercise.

9. Work Storm Brainstorm

Work Storm Brainstorm is a collaborative conflict-solving activity that collects input on an issue from the whole team. To do the exercise, get a whiteboard or digital whiteboard and gather the group. Place the issue in a circle at the center of the board. Next, write the desired result or results. Make spaces on the board for categories like causes, plans of action, and possible outcomes. You can also include spaces for variables or “what ifs.”

Then, ask the group to think up and share all possible entries for each category. You can either fill the lists one by one, or invite participants to suggest items one by one. Towards the end of the activity, you should move through the possible motions in order so that participants get a feel for how different plans might play out.

Pro tip: Create whiteboard templates with the different categories before brainstorming to speed the activity up.

10. If You Send Your Boss an Email

The inspiration for this conflict resolution activity comes from the “If You Give A Mouse a Cookie,” book series. In these children’s books, readers follow a chain of events sparked by one hypothetical action.

The original book opens:

“If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk.

When you give him the milk, he’ll probably ask you for a straw.

When he’s finished, he’ll ask you for a napkin.

Then he’ll want to look in a mirror to make sure he doesn’t have a milk mustache….”

Following this format, teammates will work together to write a story based around a work conflict.

Here are some sample starting prompts:

  • If you give a coworker side eye
  • If you give a client an ultimatum
  • If you give a teammate an impossible deadline
  • If you ignore your teammate’s question
  • If you ignore your teammates request for an update
  • If you share some juicy gossip

For the sake of variety, you can give teams different prompts. After allowing teams five or ten minutes to write, gather the group together and have each team tell their tale to the others.

Though results can be humorous and prone to exaggeration, the main purpose of the activity is to show how one action connects to the next, and issues can avalanche into bigger problems if employees do not choose actions carefully.

11. Wellness Checklists

Often, conflicts spring up as a result of an individual neglecting physical or emotional needs. Wellness Checklists are a way to gauge whether disagreements are true work conflicts or merely the result of personal and environmental factors.

Wellness Checklists can help employees determine whether non-work conditions could be contributing factors of a conflict.

Wellness Checklist

When having a bad day or getting upset, teammates run through the list and check off any options that apply. Ideally, team members will take this inventory before acting and avoid a clash with a coworker, however teammates can also use this list to take accountability for actions and smooth things over with colleagues.

12. Team Timelines

Team Timelines are chronological accounts of conflicts. In this activity, teams map out the development of an issue. Simply make a timeline, then add each relevant event. Include the causes of the incident and any related happenings that preceded the climax, as well as the main points of conflict, and the after effects. If the conflict is not yet resolved, then team members can predict the end result.

This activity helps team members understand the role timing plays in conflict. Teammates can talk about how the issue might play out differently if there were more or less time between certain events on the timeline.

Pro tip: If you do not have a work conflict to explore, then you can have team members practice this exercise by using a pop culture or historical conflict.

13. Rage Rooms

Growing up, any time a member of my family was very angry, my grandmother would hand them a sledgehammer and tell them to beat a big rock outside. Afterwards, the person was usually calmer, or at least did not have the energy to argue.

Sometimes, a conflict is beyond control in the moment, and teammates merely need a way to vent aggression over the situation instead of taking frustrations out on teammates. Luckily, rage rooms are all the rage these days. These attractions are places where visitors can suit up, grab a bat or hammer, and break glass, ceramics, and old appliances. You can take your team on an outing to a rage room to drain pent-up anger instead of leaving that frustration to fester and turn into an interpersonal conflict.

Final Thoughts

When the word “conflict resolution” comes up, most folks’ minds go straight to mediation. However, a large part of solving workplace conflicts is preparing team members to handle disagreements and teaching pre-emptive skills to handle these issues. Conflict resolution activities teach habits like active listening, empathy, negotiation, and compromise. Plus, these exercises provide low-risk environments for teammates to practice and perfect these abilities.

Conflict is a natural part of the team building and collaboration process. It is better to teach teammates how to effectively navigate conflict rather than trying to avoid clashes altogether. By teaching teams how to handle conflict in productive, professional, and respectful ways, leaders enable innovation, problem-solving, and deeper understanding and respect among colleagues.

Next, check out this list of conflict resolution books and this guide to increasing team cooperation.

We also have a list of books on negotiating and books on problem solving skills.

FAQ: Conflict resolution activities

Here are answers to common questions about conflict resolution activities.

What are conflict resolution activities?

Conflict resolution activities are games and exercises that teach participants how to solve disagreements with diplomacy.

What are some good conflict resolution games for work?

Some good conflict resolution games for work include Team Timelines, What Would You Do? And Am I the A**hole?

How do you do conflict resolution exercises?

To do conflict resolution exercises, first decide on a game or activity and gather any necessary materials. Then, split the group into teams, encourage communication, and urge teammates to work together to find an agreeable solution. Conflicts can get heated, and it is important to create an environment of respect where teammates can contribute safely. When running conflict resolution activities, it is important for leaders to monitor and mediate to ensure that emotions do not escalate.

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Marketing Coordinator at teambuilding.com.
Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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