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Shine a new light on workplace conflict

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What’s the most common issue in the workplace?

It comes in many guises but at the core of a lot of issues lies workplace conflict. It may take the form of having to manage poor performance, personality clashes or plain old stress. In the simplest terms, conflict is nothing more than a difference of opinion or approach because no two individuals think alike.

Conflict arises whenever individuals have different values, opinions, attitudes, perceptions, needs or interests and are unable to find middle ground.

Not surprisingly then, there is a lot of conflict in the workplace. But remember conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, we all know the consequences of conflict if it is handled poorly: arguments, stress, fractured relationships, poor outcomes, loss of time and productivity etc. but conflict happens for a reason. If we shine a new light on workplace conflict, learn to see it as an opportunity and handle it differently, we will gain a multitude of benefits. These include:

  • increased clarity
  • innovation
  • creativity
  • problem solving skills
  • increased productivity
  • strengthened relationships
  • time savings
  • reduced costs
  • better outcomes
  • the list goes on….

Some of the more progressive organisations such as Google, embrace conflict. Google found the most important dynamic in creating effective teams is ‘psychological safety’; it reported that individuals on teams with high psychological safety ie. they didn’t fear ridicule or reprimand for their ideas or input, were less likely to leave Google and more likely to “harness the power of diverse ideas.” These individuals also created more revenue and were rated as “effective” twice as often by executives.

Another example of how embracing workplace conflict has benefitted an organisation is Nissan. Years ago, Jerry Hirshberg saw divergent perspectives as an opportunity to explore, rather than a problem to solve. As a result, Hirshberg’s team not only attracted sales and attention for the company with its designs, but also won consumer-product awards and changed conversations within the industry.

While to some, embracing conflict might seem obvious, it’s certainly not the norm for most organizations. One survey found that less than 10% of people feel their colleagues “make an effort to understand different perspectives.” Many managers would rather avoid conflict, ignore it or gloss over it rather than embrace the benefits that conflict can bring.

Well-managed conflict is a great thing. It spurs innovative company cultures, streamlines organizational processes, and creates effective leaders. So, if our leaders and mangers learn to use workplace conflict — to view it as something beneficial, rather than harmful, our organisations will thrive.

For more ideas on how this can be achieved read this article about 17 companies that expertly handle conflict. 

If you or your organisation need ideas or training on how to manage conflict, contact Take the challenge and shine a new light on workplace conflict.

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JEM Management Training

JEM Management Training designs and delivers flexible, in-house management training courses to help  organisations in Perth engage their staff fully in the workplace.

As time is often limited, JEM Training offers flexible half-day management training courses which focus on a specific area of management expertise. These short courses build upon each other over a period of time, chosen by you, to provide ongoing management development.

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