Tips for Resolving Conflict

Here are some tips to help you to manage and resolve problems that may arise during your graduate studies.

Seek out advice early

Solutions are often simpler and easier to implement before a problem escalates. It is better to come forward with a small issue than simply avoiding having a difficult conversation and see it become more complex. As a student you may not be aware of all the possible approaches to resolving an issue, or supports available, so seek advice about your options even if you are not looking for immediate action.

Be open

Different problems require different solutions and different people have different perspectives. Differences push us to think creatively and leave room for compromise and flexibility. Problems are rarely completely one-sided: solutions often need compromise and flexibility.

Remember you are not alone

Communicate, seek support, and consider that someone else may have been faced with a similar issue at some point.

Be yourself

Challenging situations can be emotionally charged, and it is important to acknowledge feelings and emotions (your own and the other person’s) while tackling a problem respectfully and with an open mind. Try to remain calm, objective, and rational, even if you think the other party is not.

Key Points

  • Seek advice and resolution as early as possible.
  • Be open to different solutions and perspectives.
  • Try to maintain calm and objective.
  • Inform yourself about the spectrum of resources available to support you in completing your program.
  • Become familiar with program-specific and University-wide policies and regulations.

Who Can I Talk To?

We understand that there are times when a supervisory relationship or relationships with academic peers can be challenging or involve conflict. We encourage you to try to address your concerns as early as possible. Our goal is to help facilitate positive, supportive, and productive relationships in your academic life. There are many different people who can provide guidance and advice about your options.  

You can contact the following offices to get advice or have a confidential conversation. If you are not sure what office is right for you, or where to start, we suggest you contact staff at CGMS or UTGSU to discuss your situation. They can help you determine the best path forward for you.

  • Centre for Graduate Mentorship and Supervision (CGMS) – You can have a  confidential conversation with a staff member at the Centre for Mentorship and Supervision about any concern you have or issue you are facing. CGMS can confidentially help you talk about your experience or concern, advise you on your options, and provide direction for next steps.  
  • Your Graduate Unit/Faculty Registrar Office – You can talk to the graduate coordinator, chair or director of the graduate unit or your Registrar. These members of the graduate unit or Faculty Office  may have a more nuanced understanding of the situation, may be able to provide more specific advice, or may be able to identify an effective solution based on the situation.  You are always able to request that conversations with these individuals remains confidential.
  • Equity Offices – The University of Toronto has specialized Equity Offices that advance the University’s commitment to equity and excellence and meet the complex needs of our tri-campus community. If you need support, we encourage you to connect with our subject matter experts for guidance and advice. We can discuss specific situations and can assist you to prepare your concerns/complaints and support you through the process. 
  • Health and Wellness Peer Support – With a single click, chat with a trained University of Toronto student peer about whatever is on your mind, right away. Support is offered in a one-on-one, drop-in, non-judgemental, confidential and accessible virtual space  
  • Office of the Ombudsperson – As part of the University’s commitment to ensuring that the rights of its individual members are protected, the University Ombudsperson is devoted to ensuring procedural fairness and just and reasonable outcomes. Matters are dealt with in strict confidence and will not be discussed with anyone without your written approval. However, please note that the Ombudsperson cannot start an investigation until all other University avenues have been exhausted.  
  • School of Graduate Studies – You can connect with staff at SGS, including Student Services and the Vice-Dean of Students, to get information about policiesguidelines, advice on informal intervention and formal appeal processes. The SGS GradHub also provides links to many other services for students.  
  • University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union – The UTGSU provides its members with confidential advocacy services. If you are experiencing academic and/or administrative difficulties, including problems with your supervisor, department, or the university, the GSU can assist you with advice, information and representation. Any information you give will remain strictly confidential.