Successful team members know that personalizing things that are not personal and holding grudges is a waste of energy.

Although having a caring persona is an advantage for today’s teams and leaders it can be a detriment in certain situations.

The reality, savvy men, and women know that in business there is actually less personal conflict than people imagine.

Professional Approach

So the next time an isolated comment or missed connection enters the picture – give that person the benefit of the doubt and move forward.

Two other advantages team members will gain by viewing the conflict as professional versus personal:

  1. avoid accidentally overreacting and imagining a personal component that did not exist
  2. positively dilute any personal conflict that may have existed.

By diverting a personal war and refusing to let someone drag you or your team into one, is the best way to stay on the high road – the same high road that leads to the fast-track.

When HR Must Be Involved

From a different lens, serious workplace conflicts can happen and ignoring a larger situation will be expensive.

Specifically, every unaddressed conflict wastes about eight hours of company time in gossip and other unproductive activities, says Joseph Grenny, four-time New York Times bestselling author and leading social scientist.

Now multiply that by all the issues not being resolved and lost opportunity cost begins to add up.

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First Step Forward

Understanding the reasons behind conflicts can help HR professionals tackle workplace problems before—or after—a conflict turns into a face-off between departments that refuse to work together or a screaming match between colleagues.

Different Views

In today’s diverse and global workplace, at times the heart of the problem is that people differ from each other in gender, ethnicity, personality type or age.

Another Generation

Brian Scala, an HR administrator, repeatedly saw generational clashes in his role located in Kansas. The Baby Boomers and members of Generation X saw the Millennials as low energy contributors with negative work ethics, while the Millennials viewed their older colleagues as less adaptable to change.

In one instance, two lab workers from different generations who performed the same job came to HR complaining about each other.

The Baby Boomer had taken notes on when her younger colleague was showing up in the morning and complained about the quality of his work. He called her overbearing and inflexible in trying new approaches.

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Winning Solution

Following the HR debrief of the meetings, “A lightbulb went off for us on how to get these people to work together,” Scala says.

HR set up a new system that uses checklists to show the contributions of each person. The impact – this simple strategy helped the Boomer to recognize her colleague’s accomplishments.

Another positive result of that conflict, HR also developed a mentorship program that pairs Millennials with older workers, enabling younger workers to gain a better understanding of the value of older colleagues’ experience.

Is It Worth The Effort?

The short answer is: Yes, it is worth the effort to avoid personal conflict if you want to be part of or lead a positive workforce.

The broader view: A recent Society for Human Resource Management survey found that 72 percent of employees rank “respectful treatment of all employees at all levels” as the top factor in job satisfaction.



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Kelly Isley is an international strategist, business leader, columnist, author, and pilot with more than 21 years of experience in the aerospace, finance, engineering, and healthcare industries. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and covers global workforce, workplace and leadership topics. If you have any suggestions for future articles please contact Kelly via email or twitter.