Madeleine Vachon – Education Report

Dealing with Workplace Conflict

Workshop held at COPE Ontario office, Toronto

April 4, 2013

I feel very privileged to have been able to participate in this training session.  As an administrative assistant, I think this workshop is of utmost importance to help deal with conflicts in the workplace.

We begin with an overview of definitions and sources of potential conflicts in the workplace; we were given several concrete examples in a first attempt to identify what conflicts are.  Disagreements are unavoidable; however, they do not always escalate to become a conflict. Varying opinions and approaches to the business side of your workplace can bring about disagreements. It can become a distraction and be disruptive, or it can help bring about changes.  This workshop presented us with strategies in order to settle disputes before the issues need to be dealt with through mediation or arbitration.

Conflict occurs when people have different wants, needs or expectations, which is what we find in most workplaces.  However, it is important to know that there are three different types of conflict: manager and employee conflict, work team conflict and peer to peer conflict.  The two most common sources of conflict are susbstantive conflict and interpersonal conflict.  The fact that this session brought together unionized workers from various workplaces and employers, I found the discussions around these two common sources very interesting and enriching.  We were presented with possible strategies to help solve conflicts stemming from these two common sources.

The types of managerial actions can also cause workplace conflict.  It became clear to me during this session that conflicts may arise when employees do not understand the reason for some programs or decisions, disagreements around work assignments, or even lack of leadership.  It can lead to frustration and unhappiness affecting the work of the organization.

Conflicts can have negative results, and they can have positive results.  In training sessions such as this one, we are given examples of both.  Conflict can be beneficial despite the cost of working through it.  It can bring about growth in the organization as well as strength in the workforce.

We were also presented five strategies to deal with conflict:  avoidance, accommodation; competition; compromise; collaboration.   The key to deciding an effective response is to know the results you want to achieve.

The training kit we received contained documents that I find very useful.  This document presents all the above information as well as supplementary guidelines that I keep handy.  It includes suggestions on dialogue to resolve issues as well as its key elements to provide assistance in preparing the dialogue.

In conclusion, I have enjoyed this session and the sharing of personal stories brought about by the participants from various workplaces.  I am also convinced that this one-day workshop should be presented as an introduction to the subject.  Too many ramifications are brought forward and  need to be addressed with discussing conflict in the workplace.  We may have glanced for a few minutes on the bullying aspect of relationships in the workplace. However, if my memory serves me correctly, we felt we could go on forever when this subject came up.

I look forward to other training courses in this field; the more members are aware of the definitions, outcomes and strategies, the better our workplaces can be.  We live in an uncertain time for unions in this country; the last thing we need is for the workforce within our ranks to be divided.  We need more and more training around this subject in order to avoid negative impact on our workforce and in our workplaces.

Submitted in solidarity,

Madeleine Vachon