Conflict Resolution in Companies Without Hierarchies

Taking responsibility for your thoughts, beliefs, words and actions.

von Andreas Kraus, Kathrin Kastel and Alexandra Wudel, March 2, 2023
Conflict Resolution in Companies Without Hierarchies

In this article we will show you how conflicts are resolved in self-organized companies without hierarchies. Teal-Organizations are based on a certain image of humanity: a belief that people are fundamentally good and act in the best interest of all. Therefore, the basis for successful joint work is not control, but communication, transparency, and openness. It is also about taking responsibility for our thoughts, beliefs, words and actions.

Nevertheless, it is important to provide appropriate support to enable everyone to seek dialogue with the person concerned themselves in the event of a conflict, or to involve mediators and ombudsman. All of us need a conflict management process!

Conflict management process in hierarchical companies

Storytime: The two main department heads, Verena and Michael, cannot agree on how the cooperation between their two departments, purchasing and sales, should be structured in the future. The decisive factor is a customer project that threatens to get out of hand, whereby neither of the two wants to implement the adjustments in the workflow suggested by the other person. Both complain to the next higher hierarchical authority, the managing director Thomas, about the incompetence of the other and try to make themselves look as good as possible. He gives the problem to his consultant Julia, who is supposed to solve the problem for him and who is now between the two chairs. Julia takes the topic with her after work and spends the whole evening pondering a possible solution that satisfies both sides. Unfortunately, Verena and Michael don't take the time for an appointment together, so that Verena, as the bearer of bad news, stands in the middle and is overwhelmed with emails from both sides. Verena and Michael have unloaded their burden on her and leave it to her to communicate the bad news to her superior Thomas.

Verena and Michael are examples of employees in a hierarchical company who have learned over the years to have conflicts addressed and resolved by managers instead of working through misunderstandings and mistakes in dialogue and learning from them. Instead of sitting down together and finding a solution in the best interests of the company, they try to make themselves look their best when the problem is presented to the next higher authority. Further cooperation will probably not improve in the future either, because only the symptom, not the cause, was addressed. Verena and Michael, Purchasing and Sales, still do not work in harmony with each other and do not benefit from the skills and knowledge of the other department.

Conflict management process in Teal-Organizations

How exactly can an alternative draft look like? The conflict management process at enableYou starts earlier. In addition to our basic assumptions in Teal, we have rules and assumptions that underlie our conflict management process. We have agreed that we will not speak ill of others behind their backs. Rumors have no place in Teal-Organizations. Rather, it is a question of seeking a private conversation with the person concerned. Even if we don't want to involve other people, the exchange between two people sometimes doesn't work: and that requires clear rules and processes.

The essence of the conflict management process lies in the fact that the responsibility for conflict resolution always lies with those affected, regardless of the involvement of the mediators and obudsman.

In our story, Julia could play this role, since she already has all the necessary information and can mediate between both parties. Unfortunately, Verena and Michael are still irreconcilable, which is why another person of trust is called in. However, Verena and Michal still cannot agree on a new working mode. Therefore, the ombudsman now decides to involve another role: With enableYou it would be the (co-)founders, with our story it would be the founder and managing director of the company, Thomas. The founders do not play this role because of their position, but through the assumption that they carry the spirit of the Teal-Organization firmly within them.

Conflicts are opportunities for growth

Of course, this doesn't go smoothly and we all need practice and training in communication techniques. It is not always easy to seek confrontation, to reveal one's thoughts and feelings and to show oneself vulnerable - even to make oneself vulnerable in the professional field. We are all learning and have decided to improve our communication skills inside and outside the company.

Maybe this article will motivate you to have that conversation with someone you've been putting off for a long time. You will learn and a load will be lifted from your shoulders: we promise.

Good luck and if you still need a little courage, get in touch with us.


In this column, presented in collaboration with enableYou, we want to give a brief overview of the TEAL-concept introduced by Frederic Laloux’s book “Reinventing Organizations”. Through articles and best practices, we are going to lay down the need for a new management paradigm, explain how the Teal-concept provides a possible solution. Within six articles, we share our knowledge about the practical side of this self-organized way of working and deep dive into the evolutionary purpose of TEAL organisations as well as its connection to feminism.

By gaining new perspectives, we want to inspire traditionally organized companies to rethink their structure and be brave to try new concepts, such as Teal.


Our columnists are Andreas Kraus, Kathrin Kastel and Alexandra Wudel. Andreas founded enableYou in 2020 and has the purpose to share human-centric management paradigm as Teal with others. Alexandra works as an Agile Coach in politics. For years, she works as a critical voice in the field of business and technology. Kathrin works as an IT business consultant with a passion for people and new work in SMEs.