American Association for Physician Leadership

Problem Solving

Conflict Is Destructive in the Workplace, But It Can Be Addressed

Harvard Business Review

April 9, 2018


Conflict is an unavoidable part of the workplace, but it doesn’t have to paralyze progress. Here’s how to manage it.

Usually there isn’t just one culprit, and if you want less fighting and a more enjoyable, productive workplace, you have to understand your own role in it. Here are some suggestions.

We all spend an inordinate amount of time complaining about people, avoiding them and fighting with them. But if you want to manage conflict in the workplace, you can’t start with anyone but yourself.

Breaking the destructive cycle involves becoming aware of your feelings and reactions to pressure and stress, consciously manage your emotions and no longer seeing other people as threats.

Here are some steps to follow to have fewer destructive conflicts at work:

Develop self-awareness: You need to recognize what causes you to feel thwarted or threatened. Take the time to figure out your triggers.

Employ emotional self-control: Emotional self-control is what enables us to check and channel our emotions. It allows us to manage negative feelings, see reality through a clear lens and stop lashing out.

Build friendships at work: To minimize stress and conflict at work, we need to replace “I, me, mine” with “we, us, ours.” This will lead to warmer, friendlier relationships — something most people need and want at work.

Develop habits that encourage mindfulness and empathy: Practices such as yoga and meditation are invaluable when it comes to developing self-awareness, learning to manage emotions and short-circuiting the stress response. Scheduling time for self-reflection can also help tremendously with self-control. Concern for others, empathy and compassion can help us thrive. Make a point to ask yourself questions that can help you understand others’ points of view. What are they thinking and feeling? What can I do to make them feel better about this situation?

Copyright 2017 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

Harvard Business Review

Harvard Business Publishing (HBP) was founded in 1994 as a not-for-profit, wholly-owned subsidiary of Harvard University, reporting into Harvard Business School . Our mission is to improve the practice of management in a changing world. This mission influences how we approach what we do here and what we believe is important.

With approximately 450 employees, primarily based in Boston, with offices in New York City, India, and the United Kingdom, Harvard Business Publishing serves as a bridge between academia and enterprises around the globe through its publications and multiple platforms for content delivery, and its reach into three markets: academic, corporate, and individual managers. Harvard Business Publishing has a conventional governance structure comprising a Board of Directors , an internal Executive Committee , and Business Unit Directors.

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For over 45 years.

The American Association for Physician Leadership has helped physicians develop their leadership skills through education, career development, thought leadership and community building.

The American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL) changed its name from the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2014. We may have changed our name, but we are the same organization that has been serving physician leaders since 1975.


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formerly known as the American College of Physician Executives (ACPE)