Creating (Healthy) Workplace Conflict

A recent study by Psychometrics Canada of 350 human resources professionals confirms that workplace conflict is ubiquitous. The study reports that the “most common causes of conflict are warring egos and personality clashes (86%), poor leadership (73%), lack of honesty (67%), stress (64%), and clashing values (59%).”

Violations of norms of civility and respect are negative forms of conflict that beg for immediate corrective action. The report suggests that leaders should quickly address toxic behavior by increasing supervision of problem personnel, providing additional clarity about expectations and modeling appropriate behavior. These findings are obvious but not always given sufficient management attention.

Healthy Workplace Conflicts Contributes to Improved Outcomes


Even more interesting was that 87% of survey respondents believe that conflict can lead to positive outcomes such as

  • Better understanding of others
  • Better solutions to problems
  • Improved working relationships
  • Higher performance in teams
  • Increased motivation
  • Major innovations

I can’t agree more. When there is clear evidence to multiple people in the organization that things are off course or sub-optimal, conflict is a powerful tool to focus collective attention on the root cause and inspire improvements. The key is to focus on the evidence and potential solutions, not the personalities or behaviors.

While it’s easy to talk about the benefits of conflict, leading teams to embrace conflict, generate positive outcomes and avoid personal attacks is extremely difficult. The report concludes with several useful techniques for managing conflict such as understanding the situation in detail before acting and remaining positive amidst problems.

Thanks to the team at Psychometrics Canada for it’s insightful research on the beneficial aspects of conflict.