Northeastern British Columbia



Why Deal With Workplace Conflict?

Tips for Managing Workplace Conflict

Direct Discussion — How to Approach a Co-worker

Why We Avoid Dealing With Conflict

Are All Conflicts the Result of Personality Clashes or Poor Behaviour

Conflict Styles

Communicating in Conflict

Managing Anger — Yours and Others

Handling Criticism

Being Hard on the Problem — Not the Person

The Role of Assumptions, Perceptions and Expectations in Conflict

Let's Talk (pdf)

Why Deal With 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 in positive ways — in ways that:

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:

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.


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.

©Vancouver Island University