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Blog - Avoiding conflict; valuing difference

Avoiding conflict; valuing difference

Posted by Tracy Powley 01/06/15



More than 4 in 10 people have experienced conflict at work in the last year according to the latest report from the CIPD “Getting under the skin of workplace conflict”

Starkly highlighted in the report is that the most common cause of conflict is different styles of working.  Whether people do not see what value a different style to their own brings or they have a dislike of a different style, they often fail to respond to that difference in a “healthy” way.

If difference is at the root of so much conflict, surely it follows that we should be investing in helping people understand and deal with difference in a more positive way?

One way to facilitate that understanding and start to build more cooperative working relationships is through the use of self-awareness tools. Even on a very simple level, helping people understand the difference between an introvert and extrovert orientation can foster greater tolerance and better communication.

Take this scenario. MD, Joe Bloggs has a strong extrovert style. He has a very capable departmental manager Ed, but Joe is reticent to consider Ed for promotion because he feels he does not volunteer for projects and tasks and often doesn’t contribute in management meetings. He has actually begun to think Ed lacks ambition.

In fact, Ed, with a strong introvert orientation, does not like to make “on the spot decisions” and when opportunities present themselves, he tends to want to think them through and make an informed decision. Introversion has nothing to do with being shy or passive - it is about the way we respond to and interact with the world around us.  

But how easily difference can be misinterpreted and how easily frustration - such as Joe’s frustration with Ed’s perceived lack of ambition – can take hold.

Dealing with conflict and inappropriate behaviour in teams can be daunting for managers, but a tool like Myers-Briggs can be enormously helpful in raising awareness around different approaches and personality types.

There will be many practical actions managers and team members can take to work together more effectively. For example, Joe giving Ed an agenda before each management meeting would enable Ed to consider ideas and questions beforehand and contribute more in the meetings themselves.

But first, we need to give people that understanding of each other and be clear that neither approach is right or wrong – just different.

We will never eradicate conflict – but what we can do is ensure difference is seen as positive and necessary – then we may start to minimise the frustration associated with different styles and maximise the benefits it can bring to our working relationships.


For more information on how we can help you rebuild working relationships when they come off the rails, have a look at our Repairing Working Relationships solutions.  Or for a confidential chat about how we can help call us on 01903 732 782.

Take a look at our self-awareness tools for guidance on how to use them, including Myers Briggs, Belbin Team Roles and 360 feedback.

Tracy Powley
Tracy Powley

Stella Chandler and I founded Focal Point on a shared belief that a training course run in isolation doesn't work. We passionately believe there must be support both before and after the training or coaching session itself for it to make a difference. When I am not facilitating sessions with clients or looking at ways to grow the Focal Point business, you will find me in a calming yoga class...

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