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    May 08, 2019    |   Psychometrics Canada

Conflict Management – by the numbers

Written by Shawn Bakker, Psychologist


“The most intense conflicts, if overcome, leave behind a sense of security and calm that is not easily disturbed. It is just these intense conflicts and their conflagration which are needed to produce valuable and lasting results.” Carl Gustav Jung

Conflict is a reality of working with others. Our research of conflict in Canadian workplaces indicates that everyone has to deal with conflict at some time, with 38% of people saying they deal with conflict frequently.

The essence of workplace conflict is a difference between the concerns or desires of the people involved. How those people respond to the differences is what can lead to either negative or positive outcomes from conflict. To capture the upside of differing perspectives and concerns requires good situational awareness and a willingness to adapt behavior and operate outside of your comfort zone.

Nowhere is this seen as more important that in leadership. Our study also indicated that 99% of HR professionals rate conflict management as an important leadership skill. To be successful in a leadership role requires the skills necessary to consider, debate and synthesize differences of opinion in a positive manner.

The problem is that most leaders are not very effective at managing conflict. Respondents to our survey report that only 17% of leaders can effectively deal with workplace conflict, a whopping 64% are only somewhat effective, and 18% aren’t effective at all! Not only that, but leaders are actually a common source of conflict, with our results showing that 73% of HR professionals see poor leadership as a common cause of conflict.

Our data shows a significant gap between leaders’ conflict handling skills and what is necessary for them to be successful. To help narrow this gap we asked HR professional what leaders could do to deal with conflict effectively. Here are their top 3 recommendations:

  1. Model the right behaviors.
  2. Deal with issues before they get out of hand.
  3. Be clear about their expectations.

Wow. No recommendations for mediation training or developing conflict handling skills. Instead, basic ideas – treat others as you would like to be treated; don’t procrastinate; communicate.


For more recommendations on how to deal with conflict and generate positive outcomes you can read our complete study on workplace conflict at:

Warring Egos, Toxic Individuals, Feeble Leadership

We are conducting research into the HR challenges that Canadian organizations are currently facing and we could use your help. Completing our People Trends Survey takes 10-15 minutes and your insights will help advance the understanding of peoples’ needs and challenges in the workplace.

People Trends Survey