Why do we often find ourselves shying away from conflict in the workplace? Kate Whittle from Co-operantics gives some insights.

Good governance can help organisations avoid many of the conflicts which can arise when a group of people work together. However it’s also important to think about behaviours, using co-operative skills to improve communication, meetings and decision-making.

We mostly shy away from conflict, afraid that it will damage our relationships with others or our confidence in ourselves. This is because we learn strategies for dealing with conflict mainly as children – perhaps in the school playground – and rarely have the opportunity to review those strategies, which may not be effective in adult life.

One way of looking at different responses to conflict is to see them along a continuum leading from avoidance – “run away!” – to confrontation, often based on violence or power relationships. Somewhere between these two extremes are strategies based on changing the subject – or confusing the issue – such as introducing distractions, irony or jokes.

None of these approaches is really satisfactory – if we run away we know we have not solved the problem; we have learned nothing and the next time we will probably run away too.

Changing the subject or confusing the issue or making people laugh can work for a while – comedians sometimes say they learnt to be funny in the school playground as a technique for dealing with the school bully – but such a strategy is not always successful and can be unreliable. Violent confrontation also has its downsides, such as a bloody nose or, if you win, enemies that may try to bring you down later.

However, confrontation does not have to be violent. It can be based on an assertive approach: “I know I have rights and acknowledge your rights – so let’s negotiate a settlement to this dispute that will suit us both”.

Join the wonderful Kate Whittle, from Co-operantics, for her course ‘From conflict to co-operation: a toolkit for teams‘. During the workshop we review different conflict resolution approaches – and we will find that this assertive, co-operative approach is the most satisfactory way to deal with major conflicts, since it involves people working together to find a solution everyone will commit to.


Click here to find out more about Kate’s course ‘From conflict to co-operation: a toolkit for teams’’, Thursday 13th February 2020, 10am – 4pm, Taunton.