Take responsibility for conflict: image of fighting

#94 Take Responsibility For Conflict In Working Relationships

In the previous blog post I outlined eight dimensions of leadership that empower a leader to be more effective in conflict. This post expands on the first dimension – Responsibility. It provides some food for thought regarding how to take responsibility for conflict in working relationships and in doing so safeguard organizational productivity.

I was recently doing some work in an environment where there had been ongoing conflict between two managers for a couple of years. Their differences made it challenging for the managers to be in the same room. Much of the communication between the two was passed through their director. 

No one seemed to feel that this was a serious problem. The managers’ teams did not rise up in outrage. The director gave up trying to facilitate cooperation between the two, and the executive director didn’t keep the director focused on doing something about it. There was frustration, but everyone seemed willing to live with it – including the two managers. 

Take responsibility for conflict: image of fighting

If such a situation exists amongst personnel you oversee, here are three reasons why you might want to view it as highly problematic and maintain efforts at resolving the situation until you have done so. 


The positions of the managers described above were created with an expectation that they would interact cooperatively over situations of overlapping responsibility. Their failure to do so reduced the efficiency of operations and therefore was a cost to the organization. If you have such a situation find ways to quantify the cost to your operation in dollars. Also, consider effects on the atmosphere of the workplace and how morale is impacted. 

Loss of creative potential

As well as a downside cost there is upside opportunity lost. Some ongoing differences over practices is normal. When personnel work to maintain trusting relationships, they engage in constructive conflict over different viewpoints and goals. In doing so, they can generate innovative ways of proceeding that neither would have created on their own. 

Respectful workplace

Such a conflict as the one between the two managers is fertile ground for a bullying or harassment complaint, and in this case the conflict between the managers did contribute to complaints that were filed. It is generally easier and less costly to address conflicts prior to an investigation. 

My suggestion, when in a leadership role, is to take responsibility for conflict in working relationships amongst your personnel and act until you have addressed problematic dynamics to your satisfaction. 

2 thoughts on “#94 Take Responsibility For Conflict In Working Relationships”

  1. Hi Gordon Like your approach, to allow the conflict to continue without action it seems to me to make the whole management team suspect and less effective. S.

    1. Hi Sandy,
      Yes and some leaders, if they are not directly involved, unfortunately, do not treat the conflict as a phenomenon that they themselves might have created, or at least created the potential for. G

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