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Friday, March 16, 2012

"Five Tips to Avoid Unhealthy Conflict and Improve Work Relationships"

Hi everyone,

As you should recall, we talked a lot about conflict resolution during our last communications class. So, I want to share with you a little about healthy and unhealthy conflicts and means to avoid them in a workplace.

Unsettled workplace disputes can cause stress and anxiety both for the management and fellow co-workers. This being said, conflict is frequent in the workplace, based on the fact that everyone has a different view of the world. Not everyone’s opinions are compatible with each other. For the most part, we do not have the choice of who we work with (just as we cannot choose who we are related to). Thus, be successful in the modern work environment, one must find a way to deal with disputes and workplace disagreements.

Firstly, we must establish the difference between healthy and unhealthy conflict. Healthy differences of opinions on work-related topics can actually be beneficial to the improvement of the project in question. Being accountable could lead other co-workers to question your judgement and, hence, push you to better your performance; in these cases, there should be no reason to contact the human resources department. On the other hand, unhealthy conflict can be detrimental to the workplace environment by standing in the way of people doing their work (and in certain cases could even involve abuse). 

What can pose the greatest challenge is assessing when and how to properly intervene. Dodging the problem will not resolve the conflict, leaving it to grow and return at a later date. In certain situations, management may need to set certain guidelines of inappropriate behaviour. Workers who add to these problems must be dealt with in a speedy and efficient manner. Management has the duty to ensure a safe and productive workplace environment; hence, it is their job to deal with any conflict that could potentially disturb this delicate balance.

Following yet another Kathie Must’s blog post, she offers five tips to actually avoid unhealthy conflict and improve work relationships. Here is what Must has to say:
  1. “Keep in mind all of the environmental factors above that contribute to workplace conflict. Recognizing the many influences that create workplace disparities helps us to be more understanding of different opinions and contrasting approaches. We are often quick to personalize and interpret all sorts of meaning which may be completely off base. Withhold judgement and adopt a problem-solving attitude.
  2. Don’t ignore conflict. Conflict seldom resolves itself. Ask for help. Your organization may have supports and a reporting process.
  3. Be alert and watchful of your own style and approach. So often, as a conflict is debriefed, individuals are initially surprised at the impact they have had, but after reflection, they develop an understanding. Be pro-active and recognize the influence you have.
  4. Hone your own conflict management skills. This skill set will serve you wherever you go and will enhance both your effectiveness and your enjoyment of the work you do.
  5. Remember that you are not an island. While it might be less problematic if you could pursue your own ideas and set your own priorities, to accomplish organizational goals, we need to work together and consider the ideas and priorities of the team” (Must, 2012).
Kathie Must's blog is available at:

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