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Managing Workplace Conflict

Disagreement and conflict is normal in any workplace. As diverse human beings with different roles, goals and personal perspectives we will necessarily have differences of opinion. The goal is to resolve these differences is positive ways – in ways that:

  • respect the other person,
  • consider multiple perspectives and possibilities, and
  • value the legitimate needs of everyone involved.

Such a process can result in solutions or decisions that are creative and innovative. Decision-making and problem-solving is enhanced when differences are used to generate and expand the possible avenues for action.

When instead disagreements worsen and become unmanaged conflict there are often negative results for an employee. People may feel threatened – this feeling of threat can be physical but is often emotional, such as a threat to goals, status, job security, values or preferred outcome. Ineffectively managed conflict can impact the parties in many ways, such as:

  • loss of sleep,
  • anxiety,
  • lowered morale
  • decreased job satisfaction.

 It can, on occasion, also take on a life of its own, drawing in other people or departments.

If the conflict grows - people, departments and the institution - all pay the price of deteriorating work performance. In very extreme circumstances it can lead to workplace violence.

It is important for conflict to be addressed in productive ways. Conflict that is well managed can produce positive effects in working relationships and eliminate the negative effects of escalated conflict.

The following is a comparison of the benefits of managed conflict and the damage resulting from “out-of-control” conflict. i

Managed Conflict

Out-of-Control Conflict

Strengthens relationships and builds teamwork

Damages relationships and discourages cooperation

Encourages open communication and cooperative problem-solving

Results in defensiveness and hidden agendas

Resolves disagreements quickly and increases productivity

Wastes time, money and human resources

Deals with real issues and concentrates on win-win resolution

Focuses on fault-finding and blaming

Makes allies and diffuses anger

Creates enemies and hard feelings

Airs all sides of an issue in a positive, supportive environment

Is frustrating, stress producing and energy draining

Calms and focuses toward results

Is often loud, hostile and chaotic

The information on this site is focused on providing information on how to manage any conflicts we may encounter so that the results from “out-of-control” conflict do not damage our working relationships and our effectiveness as a post-secondary institution.