Conflict, like death and taxes, is inevitable, and the workplace is a breeding ground for unproductive conflict.  Consider that organizational culture consists of shared values, beliefs, assumptions, perceptions, and norms. Add to that the fact that organizations are complex coalitions of individuals, departments, and divisions—each competing for perceived scarce resources, such as funding, access to those in power, and time. Stir in a little power imbalance and organizational political posturing. Then, add the fact that today’s managers are faced with diversity and cultural issues ranging from race and gender to individual heritage, values, and beliefs. Shake all that together and you have a workplace that is bubbling over with conflicted people and situations.  

Although 30-40% of a manager's daily activities are devoted to dealing with conflicts, many people are ill-equipped to manage these issues.  The good news is everyone can learn skills that will improve communications, transform relationships, and enhance quality of life at work.  The basis of this transformation is perception clarification. Since we construct our reality based on experiences, we have different perceptions about how conflicts happen, why they occur, and what it takes to resolve them.  

On the path to perception clarification, ask

  • What is the lens through which we view the situation?
  •  What are our individual and shared needs?
  •  What role did each of us play in the conflict?
  •  Have we listened well and asked illuminating questions? 

Clarifying perceptions is the first step in transforming conflict situations from stressful to successful.