April Is Workplace Conflict Awareness Month

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April is Workplace Conflict Awareness Month, when we can pause to find ways to convert destructive conflict into creativity. The concept is: conflict is OK, if it's respectful. And there's a huge return -- when conflict is creative, quality is higher, and we're less stressed and more productive.

April is Workplace Conflict Awareness Month, a time when employers and employees everywhere can pause for an hour or so to look at what they can do to convert destructive workplace conflict into a force for creativity.

Conflict can be creative or destructive. Anyone who works knows of or has experienced micromanagers, bullies, aggressive co-workers, screaming sessions at meetings, email flame wars, abusive bosses, and lots more. And we also know about debates and disagreements that result in better outcomes than either side had in mind in the first place.

Richard Brenner of Chaco Canyon Consulting, a management consultancy in Boston, Massachusetts, developed Workplace Conflict Awareness Month to address the problem of destructive conflict.

"We need to change the way we view workplace conflict," says Brenner. "Too many of us believe that conflict is always bad, so we don't want to deal with it. We stuff it down out of sight, until it turns really destructive. Then, when it's so powerful that nobody can control it, it comes to the surface, and people hurt each other. Sometimes it even gets physical."

The message of Workplace Conflict Awareness Month is that we can't eliminate conflict, but we can eliminate destructive conflict. If we value conflict, know how to keep it creative, and know how to make it creative if it turns destructive, we can keep from hurting each other at work. The concept is simple: conflict is OK, as long as it's respectful.

And making this change has a huge return on investment. When we keep conflict creative, we're happier, less stressed and more productive, and what we produce is of higher quality.

Mr. Brenner offers employers and employees Ten Insights for Managing Conflict. Here are his top three:

  • In destructive conflict, everyone plays a role. Some people are stars, but everybody owns a piece.
  • Sending the stars of the conflict to training probably won't work. Conflict is a system thing. Think System.
  • Conflict and Life go together -- you can't have one without the other. The trick is to keep Conflict creative.

In 1993, while researching low-cost software development methods for the Department of Defense, Mr. Brenner began to suspect that part of the solution to lowering development costs lay not in the next new technology, but in finding better ways for engineers to work together.

So he began studying the interpersonal dimensions of software engineering. That led him to study the work of Virginia Satir, a family therapist who pioneered the application of systems thinking to resolving problems in families and organizations. That work eventually led Brenner to develop Workplace Conflict Awareness Month.

Chaco Canyon Consulting is making available a Workplace Conflict Awareness Month kit, including a slide presentation and an e-booklet, "101 Tips for Managing Conflict." For more information visit our Web site at http://www.ChacoCanyon.com, or contact Cathy Stone at 866-378-5470.


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