Confrontation or collaboration?

I wish I had a pound for each time a client has said that certain individuals do not get on at work and are causing problems but then say they have done nothing about it. Clients often see confrontation and disagreement as negative, damaging and to be avoided at all costs. They think that talking about a problem will be uncomfortable, or even make things worse, so they walk away and ignore it.

Not so. In my experience conflict is healthy and constructive – and being able to channel it in a positive way should be a key element of good management.

It’s a pity that most organisations manage conflict through formal procedures such as disciplinaries, grievances and employment tribunals. Unfortunately, these procedures are usually activated when the conflict has escalated, and the longer it goes on the more difficult it is to resolve. I wonder just how much time is spent in conflict in the workplace, with the attendant loss in productivity.

I said earlier that conflict resolution skills should be part of good management. Think about it; conflict resolution skills are only an extension of the normal ‘dialogue’ managers should be having with their teams. It is not unusual when I undertake mediation in companies that at the end the individuals say: “Do you know, we could have sorted this out ourselves months ago”. I also often find that a lot of conflict arises from poor communication.

Some people are born mediators with inbuilt skills of listening and not offering solutions. However, most people need training in conflict resolution skills, so when you are putting together your next training plan, think about how much your business might benefit from having competent and confident people with these skills.

David Cawthorne, Cedar Human Resources

If you need advice please e-mail David at
Tagged with: ,
Posted in Human Resources Blog