Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is
to grow strong by conflict. — William E. Channing
French novelist and playwright Alexandre Dumas once had a heated
quarrel with a rising young politician. The argument became so intense
that a duel was inevitable. Since both men were superb shots they
decided to draw lots, the loser agreeing to shoot himself. Dumas lost.
Pistol in hand, he withdrew in silent dignity to another room, closing
the door behind him. The rest of the company waited in gloomy suspense
for the shot that would end his career. It rang out at last. His
friends ran to the door, opened it, and found Dumas, smoking revolver
in hand. “Gentlemen, a most regrettable thing has happened,” he
announced, “I missed.”
While the way we deal with conflicts has improved, there is still no
shortage of conflict. Workplace conflict can be a strong source of
stress and tension and being able to lead through those times is
As reported by Recruitment Coach the negative impacts of workplace
conflict leads to increased staff turnover and absenteeism. Their
Employee Development Systems survey found that 81 percent of HR
professionals had seen employees resign as a result of conflict, and
77 percent have noticed increased absenteeism, resulting in increased
What do you think are the leading contributors to workplace conflict?
According to the study the top five causes of workplace conflict were:
warring egos and personality clashes, poor leadership, lack of
honesty, stress, and clashing values. While conflict in the workplace
may be inevitable, ignoring it is not an option. So what is a leader
to do? Here are four suggestions for consideration.
Acknowledge it. Until management, including HR, acknowledges that
there is a problem there is no correcting it. As a leader you don’t
need to be the last in the room to recognize what everyone else knows
and experiences. How many employees must leave, how much revenue must
you lose, and how much abuse do you think your employees must endure
before you act? When you identify the problem you can begin to work on
solutions, but not until then. Poor leadership was cited for a reason.
Don’t add to the problem through omission.
Welcome it. Yes, welcome it! Warring egos and personalities among your
people, when properly channeled, can be one of the single greatest
sources of inspiration you need. General George S. Patton was accurate
when he said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t
thinking.” When perceived threats are removed and differences are
celebrated rather than attacked it can be the turning point in
creating the company culture that you’ve been missing. Don’t squelch
diversity; welcome it.
Elevate it. Now that you have acknowledged and welcomed conflict you
can elevate it to a higher level. Rather than allowing warring
personalities to be labeled as enemies, bring them together as allies
to channel their creative energies for something good. Invest in a
training program like DISC to discover personality styles and how to
create the chemistry your team needs to succeed. It’s when you
respectfully have everyone on the same page, when values are clear,
and communication is honest, that you can learn to see the value
conflict can have. It might sound risky, but consider the consequences
Celebrate it. Leading through conflict will not be easy. It will take
honesty to face your conflict and courage to change it. But once you
do you can position yourself to be the benefactor of conflict and not
the victim. When your employees see each other as teammates rather
than adversaries it can be celebrated. Diversity of thoughts, ideas,
and personalities is one of your greatest assets and it should never
be destroyed by poor leadership or out-of-control egos. Your workplace
should be a place of celebration!
What do you say?
Doug Dickerson is a syndicated columnist. He writes a weekly column
for this newspaper. To contact Doug Dickerson, email him at