Is It Possible to Transform Workplace Conflict, Or Should You Learn to Live With It?

workplace conflict

Summary: Leadership programs for everyone have conflict resolution at the top of the list. Here are ways to consider the tensions at work and what leads to creative collaboration.

Dear Dr. Sylvia,

Firstly, I want you to know I am the senior VP of HR, and I need all the advice I can get to make the transition to our hybrid work setting smooth and calm.

It seems like you have done quite a bit of consulting in the complex realm of change management and conflict resolution, and I hope you can be an inspiration to me.

For example, when it comes to upsets and disappointments, I notice that people talk about each other rather than to each other.

Therefore, the gossip mill is reaching new heights.

Furthermore, getting folks to engage in an honest dialogue is tricky when I do my HR job to mediate and resolve upset.

My big question is. “What, if any, are new ways of tackling the conflict that comes with change?”


Wisdom Seeker

Leadership programs for everyone require methods for how change escalates the conflict.

Dear Wisdom Seeker,

You are asking what all my clients are struggling with also.

For instance, anxiety and stress are at high levels, and I doubt these levels will decrease as the economy continues to dip, climate change intensifies, and international tensions expand.

The path to healthy and positive change needs a shift in perspective. This shift means looking at why there is so much resistance to change.

For many, when it is necessary to abandon familiar ways of thinking and to respond, it is seen as a threat to the foundation of what matters in life.

Stress management programs for leaders are needed now more than ever.

For this reason, I want to offer a different perspective on managing change and limiting conflict.

However, please remember that change and conflict are necessary to develop new and better collaboration methods at work.

Thus, I would like to move away from the individual model of relating to systems thinking.

Systems thinking means everyone is responsible for team collaboration.

For example, did you ever want to stuff a sock in the mouth of the guy on the conference call who never stops making terrible jokes? Have you ever clenched your fist and had to walk away from the hotshot who thinks she has all the answers?

In addition, do you get frustrated with the level of gossip that keeps going around and around the office? Is it a never-ending story?

Leadership programs for everyone in an organization will have the best ROI.

Companies have spent billions of dollars on programs to enhance communication skills and team collaboration, yet interpersonal conflicts and disappointments continue to cause undue stress and upset. Such frustrations are understandable.

Yet, we rarely stop long enough to find a new way to tackle the problems.

There is a sense that something is missing, yet the “something” is invisible and impossible to find; until now.

Leadership programs for everyone include healthy boundary-setting.

Here is the core issue we do not consider; it is an illusion to think that we can separate who we are at work from who we are at home. It is an illusion that has been financially, as well as emotionally, costly.

When we work so hard to compartmentalize our thoughts and feelings, they will spill over into angry outbursts and hurt feelings no matter how we attempt to camouflage them.

For example, we see this in society today with road rage soaring and fist fights in company parking lots.

Leadership development must consider ways to keep stress from escalating to destructive habits.

When stress hits the hot button, there is a natural tendency to revert to patterns of behavior we learned in our original organization, the family. We learned about fairness, favoritism, cooperation, and competition here.

Moreover, these patterns, annoying as they may be, show up at work when we become anxious or unsure of ourselves.

Once we learn to decode the office politics that keep workplace conflict active and time-wasting, we can tame the conflicts at work in minutes, not days.

Most importantly, all leaders, project managers, and team directors can help diminish the stress and anxiety every day in unresolved conflict by becoming pattern aware.

Knowing who pushes your emotional buttons and what to do about it is essential.

Is it the procrastinator who always says, “I’ll get my part of the project to you tomorrow?” And yet, tomorrow never comes.

Perhaps the avoider says, “gotta go; I have a call I must take now.” This personality type would leave rather than stay and talk about uncomfortable issues.

Maybe it’s the rebel who races into your office with the threat of “I know a powerful lawyer.” The rebel is ready to throw the whole company under the bus.

There are common patterns that show up in every work setting.

It is easier to see the patterns in others. However, eventually, we must look inward; this is where the rubber meets the road.

Patterns like the martyr, pleaser, denier, and super achiever started when we were still in diapers. These ways of behaving were there for our security and survival as kids. These ingrained patterns cause the most brutal conflicts that last the longest.

There are three main steps for becoming aware of patterns, yours and those you lead and with whom you collaborate. This awareness helps diminish the length of time and the depth of distress in any conflict situation.

There is a way OUT of extreme conflict to more collaboration.

  1. Observe your behavior to name the patterns, and change begins immediately
  2. Understand where they started, and the difference is more profound and long-lasting
  3. Transform patterns to their positive opposite, and you inspire others

Here is the good/bad news all wrapped together. You can never leave home without your family patterns.

Yet, please remember that not all patterns are harmful. Some behaviors, like altruism, resilience, and courage, are meant to be maintained.

In conclusion, all workplace conflict resolution programs must include a way to harness and refine how behavior patterns play out at work so everyone can achieve optimal results.

Work, what we do so much of our lives, can be a place where we can grow and learn about ourselves and interpersonal relationships and turn conflict into creative collaboration.

It is as essential for health and well-being as a secure paycheck.

Here’s to your success,


P.S. Please watch this video about the core issues in leadership programs for everyone. Also, click here to get a free copy of GOTCHA.

Creative Energy Options

Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options