How to solve (and prevent) conflicts in communities

Written by Aidan Wilson

A community of superfans comes with passionate support and strong opinions. That means a healthy Discord community will occasionally face disagreements. But when you build a strong community for your brand, you can use these tools and techniques to keep things moving forward.

Where conflict occurs between members of the community, moderators step in. If the situation escalates, mods can use moderation tools and report back to the community owner through the moderation dashboard. There are many tools for safeguarding your community and dealing with conflict, ranging from temporary bans to banning a bad actor from the server.

But what if there's a disagreement between moderators, or between mods and the community owner - the people, artist or brand running the community? Maintaining good relationships helps prevent disagreements, but if they do arise, internal conflicts like this can be dealt with.

Let's explore the possible causes of conflict, and how the Thomas-Kilmann model can be used to resolve conflicts when they happen.

Causes of internal conflict

There are various possible causes for internal conflict:

  • Different personalities, values and standards
  • Misunderstandings and communication issues
  • Harassment and bullying
  • Unfair treatment and expectations
  • Unclear responsibilities
  • Competition
  • Underlying issues

Some of these issues can be pre-empted before they come to a head. For example, where personality clashes happen, encourage mods to see their different approaches as a learning opportunity. Bear in mind that mods are often volunteers, and can be operating in high-stress situations such as a sudden influx of members.


To avoid misunderstandings or unclear communication, make sure instructions are clear and actionable.

Try to encourage a culture where everyone feels able to ask questions and seek clarification about anything said to them by the owner and other mods.

Remember as well to be open to challenge and questions, as mods may have great insights into how the community can better reach the artists or brand's goals.

One of the most important ways to head off problems is to offer feedback to mods about what is and isn't working - more on that later.

Clear rules and standards

At the same time, make it clear that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated. Make sure all mods understand they must respect the values of others, especially when members and mods come from different countries and cultures.

Competition and rewards

To avoid competition getting out of hand, look at the rewards available to mods. For example, you may have a system that encourages active participation by giving rewards to mods who reach specific quotas or hit certain moderation statistics. Gamification is a useful tactic, but be prepared to adjust the system if mods end up competing with each other rather than contributing to a healthy, happy community.

Above all, the most important way to prevent conflict is develop relationships with moderators, showing all your mods you value them and their contribution.

Resolving internal conflict

Conflict is natural, and isn't necessarily a bad thing. When people strongly disagree, it can be a sign of their passion and personal investment in the community.

Equally, mistakes happen. But when a pattern of behaviour emerges, community owners should be prepared to tackle the issue. It's important to be fair but decisive.

Follow these steps when addressing a conflict:

Identify the cause of conflict

This may be clear from looking at messages exchanged between mods, but you may also need to talk privately with everyone involved.

Meet on neutral terms

Find a neutral place like a private group to bring together the people involved. Act as an observer, and encourage people to respectfully work out their differences between  themselves.

Offer guidance, not solutions

Consider offering advice and guidance rather than imposing a decision. The most important thing is to figure out how to move forward.

Turn a conflict into a learning opportunity

Listen to everyone and discuss how the conflict could have been handled differently. See if specific grievances can be solved, and discuss how everybody can act in the future.

Conflict doesn't always need to lead to consequences

Look to the future of the community. If that requires measures like removing or banning someone, make sure it's been a fair process. Otherwise, be prepared to forgive and forget so you can move past mistakes or disagreements.

The Thomas-Kilmann model

In the 1970s, researchers Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann studied workplace behaviour and identified certain patterns in the way workers adress conflict.

They came up with the Thomas-Kilmann model, which suggests five possible frameworks for dealing with problems.

The model is based on two dimensions:

  • Assertiveness is the degree to which you try to satisfy your own needs
  • Cooperativeness is the degree to which you try and satisfy the other person's concerns.

Different levels of assertiveness and cooperativeness are appopriate for different situations. That gives us five ways to handle a conflict:


Ignore the problem. This may be appropriate if the issue is minor or seems likely to blow over.


Acknowledge or change behaviour to satisfy the other person's concerns.


Finding a compromise that everyone can agree, even if it only partially satisfies their concerns. This may only be a temporary fix and the issue could re-ignite later.


One person enforces their decision over the others. This may be appropriate if the situation is urgent or if the other person has broken the rules. But it's important for community owners not to be too heavy-handed in forcing their opinions or values on others, which can lead to long-term dissatisfaction.


Working together to find a long-term solution which meets everyone's concerns. This can take longer than a compromise, but is more likely to create a stable and positive future working environment.

Giving feedback

Feedback gives everyone useful guidance on what's going well and what needs to be course corrected. If fed back effectively, this guidance helps defuse conflict before it happens.

These are some key points to remember about giving feedback:

  • Always give feedback in private
  • Ask before giving feedback so the person is prepared to listen
  • Look for patterns of behaviour or mistakes that need to be addressed, rather than one-off lapses
  • Focus on the behaviour, not the person
  • Be specific about what's happened and what needs to happen, so there's less room for disagreement
  • Actionable: suggest an actual change the person can focus on
  • Remember to give positive feedback too - ackowledgement of hard work is a great motivator!

It may be necessary to remove or demote a mod if their behaviour is consistently at odds with the goals and well-being of the community. If you do need to remove a mod, be compassionate. Talk to them privately, keep the conversation short and stick to the decision. Be sensitive when informing the team, keeping the details confidential.

Volunteer mods may not be used to receiving feedback, so you could advise them how to approach these conversations:

  • Always listen and welcome feedback
  • Ask questions if anything is unclear
  • Reflect on feedback and be prepared to change behaviour

Mods are your personal connection to your members. Their experience and insight is hugely valuable to the community, but their passion may sometimes lead to disagreement. Wherever conflict comes from, treat members and mods with compassion, consistency and transparency to keep them invested in the community.

Experienced community management experts can help you with tools and techniques for safeguarding your community and tackle any challenges as you grow your community. Contact Levellr today to learn more about building a community which drives long-term value for your brand.

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