Confronting Conflict

Conflict is a natural and healthy element of communication. Here are constructive strategies to handle it in a positive and supportive way.

By Elizabeth N. Treher

Do you leave work with a knot in the pit of your stomach, worrying about interpersonal conflict between staff members in your lab? Do you get caught between staff members and flounder, not sure whether to intervene or ignore the situation? Do you tend to see the positive side of conflict or does the mere thought of tackling a problem make you want to call in sick?

Conflict can arise from many sources in organizations. You may face ‘internal conflict’ between responsibilities of your work and family, or other personal demands. As a manager, you may experience ‘interpersonal conflict’ between two of your staff, or ‘hierarchical conflict’ between you and a staff member. You may struggle to manage an individual who was formerly a peer and close friend. There may be ‘organizational conflict’ between departments or companies. 

As long as conflict is not resolved, organizations and those who work in them will feel the impact. Thomas Crum (1) teaches that by replacing reflexive, unconscious “I win - you lose” reactions to conflict with conscious “you and I” approaches, we can capitalize on conflict to achieve goals and objectives.

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