Finding positives in conflict

Properly managed, workplace conflict can boost productivity, strengthen teamwork and lead to major innovation
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/13/2009

The well-being of employees has always been a top priority at Vancouver Island University and, since 2004, its HR department has dedicated a good portion of the school’s website to managing workplace conflict. Presenting the hows and whys of the issue, the information covers topics such as conflict styles, “being hard on the problem, not the person” and “the roles of assumptions, perceptions and expectations in conflict.”

While conflict can have a negative effect at work — leading to higher absenteeism, presenteeism and attrition rates, low employee engagement, decreased productivity and increased disability claims — there are also positive sides to the issue, says Brenda McKay, manager of HR at Vancouver Island University (VIU) in Nanaimo, B.C.

Managed conflict can lead to strengthened relationships and teamwork, open communication, co-operative problem solving, increased productivity, a supportive environment and a focus on results.