Overcome barriers in leadership with conflict management training

A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.

By U2B Staff 

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Conflict is unavoidable, especially in the workplace where staff may work with internal and external stakeholders. Throw in a cocktail of generational cohorts under one roof – from baby boomers to millennials and Gen Z – along with employees of different cultural backgrounds – and you’ll find yourself an ecosystem that accentuates the need for conflict management, particularly for leaders. 

Mike Myatt opined on Forbes that “leadership and conflict go hand-in-hand”.

“Leadership is a full-contact sport, and if you cannot or will not address conflict in a healthy, productive fashion, you should not be in a leadership role,” he wrote, adding that leaders should subscribe to the following ethos: “Don’t fear conflict; embrace it – it’s your job.” 

Whether a conflict occurs between individuals or between departments or different stakeholders, leaders trained with conflict management skills can handle these prickly situations more effectively.

The Institute for Management Development (IMD) notes that good conflict management training enables staff members to positively engage either with colleagues or groups, to handle controversial conversations, to deliver difficult news, to express constructive criticism and to answer negative comments.

They add that conflict management training is increasingly becoming an important component of many executive leadership programmes. 

“Conflict management training can also be very helpful in managing wider organisational changes, such as a corporate restructuring or the introduction of new operational procedures,” it said, adding that the ability to effectively deal with conflicts arising from such changes will determine the success or failure of the initiative. 

Corporate history is littered with examples of large companies that have merged and then been unable to resolve conflicts arising from two different corporate cultures, it said.

“From a stakeholder engagement perspective, conflict management training enhances the organisation’s ability and effectiveness to deal with potential external pressures. Being able to deal calmly and collectively with a client or supplier and averting a potential conflict is not only good for existing business but also for the reputation of the company.”


Conflict management in the workplace

Managing conflict is both an art and science, which makes it useful for leaders to undergo training in the area. It’s unsurprising why many of the world’s top business schools offer related executive education programmes on the topic.

Kelogg Executive Education, for instance, offers Navigating Workplace Conflict, in which students will learn to use the fundamental structure of conflict management to move from conflict to collaboration acting either as a party in a conflict or as a third-party facilitator. 

Some of the skills you’ll learn include learning to defuse anger, repair broken trust and rebuild stressed relationships with peers, subordinates, superiors, clients and customers. 

“You will learn how to leverage the challenges of a diverse workgroup into opportunities that incubate creativity. Participants will engage in realistic conflict simulations that challenge them to manage emotions, agendas and to achieve organizational success,” it said. 


UBC Saunder School of Business offers an executive education in Conflict Management Strategies, in which students practice techniques for managing conflict on personal and team levels, and leave with an action plan for applying a conflict resolution process in their respective organisations.

Ultimately, conflict management is among the essential set of skills for leaders to have that would help them bolster business, maintain an organisation’s reputation and achieve positive outcomes in the workplace.