Building capacity for conflict

- University of Victoria

Workplace conflict is a fact of life. We all have to navigate it—either as someone in conflict, or someone supporting others through it. And even when it’s healthy it’s almost never comfortable. Luckily, UVic Human Resources has teamed up with colleagues across campus to better understand conflict at UVic and develop the tools you need to manage and resolve conflict as it arises.

Conflicts can range from misunderstandings to disagreements to personality clashes and beyond. They’re the frictions, oppositions or differences of opinion that can make work a little (or a lot) more challenging. And addressing conflict can sometimes feel like the biggest challenge of them all.

“Conflict is uncomfortable so it’s not surprising that most people want to avoid it,” says Karissa Sovdi, conflict project lead and Organizational Development Consultant in Human Resources.

“If we let conflicts fester without addressing them, it costs us our time, wellbeing, and opportunities while the relationships we’re trying to protect actually suffer.”

Moving beyond personal experience, conflict can impact the institution’s capacity to reach strategic objectives. Afterall, UVic’s new strategic plan calls us on us to work together in order to solve our biggest challenges on our campus and in our world. That means knowing how to work respectfully across difference in order to achieve our goals in the domains of equity, diversity and inclusion; decolonization; climate impact; innovation; recruitment and retention.

The conflict project team has been working since September 2021 to assess UVic’s approach to workplace conflict and create customized resources to support employees in navigating conflict productively and shifting conflict culture at UVic.

“Our hope is that we’ll get to a place where most UVic employees have a similar understanding of how we ‘do’ conflict here” explains Sovdi.

“We want UVic employees to better understand conflict, their role and responsibilities within conflict, and how to take steps towards positive outcomes.”

The team is working on a web-based conflict toolkit that will launch for all UVic employees soon. It will include a set of principles everyone can use to guide us through conflict as well as some easy-to-use resources to prepare for difficult conversations, consider different perspectives, guide others towards resolution and so much more. In the meantime, get started on improving your own conflict skills with the new Conflict Fluency vertical learning series.


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Keywords: People Place Planet, administrative, staff, community

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