The Good Fight: When Conflict is Beneficial

“I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic. Against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me.” ~Dave Barry, American author and columnist

A study of Canadian workplace conflict released by Psychometrics Canada in February of 2009 yielded surprising results: In many cases, conflict has severely crippling effects on productivity, staff engagement and working relationships. However, the report also found that when properly managed, conflict actually benefits organizations, leading to major innovations and better solutions to problems.

The study, which polled over 350 Human Resource (HR) professionals across Canada, identifies the causes and effects of workplace conflict. According to the report, almost all HR professionals (99%) deal with conflict on the job. 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%). Three out of four (76%) HR professionals have seen conflict escalate to personal insults and attacks, and 43% have witnessed someone being fired. Eighty-one percent of those surveyed have seen conflict lead to someone leaving the organization, and 77% have seen it result in sickness or absence.

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