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Warring Egos, Toxic Individuals, Feeble Leadership

A study of conflict in the Canadian workplace

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A study of conflict in the Canadian workplace

 Psychometrics Canada, a leading assessment publisher and consultant for the development and selection of people in business, government and education, today announced the results of its Canadian study on workplace conflict.  The report identifies the causes and effects of workplace conflict in Canada.  In many cases conflict has severely crippling effects on productivity, staff engagement and working relationships.  However, the report also found that when properly managed, conflict actually benefits organizations, leading to major innovations and better solutions to problems. 

The study, which polled over 350 Human Resource (HR) professionals across Canada, identifies the causes and effects of workplace conflict.  According to the report almost all HR professionals (99%) deal with conflict. The most common causes of conflict are warring egos and personality clashes (86%), poor leadership (73%), lack of honesty (67%), stress (64%) and clashing values (59%). These conflicts frequently result in negative outcomes. Three out of four (76%) have seen conflict result in personal insults and attacks, and 43% have witnessed someone being fired. Eighty-one percent of those surveyed have seen conflict lead to someone leaving the organization, and 77% have seen it result in sickness or absence.

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“These figures should be a strong alert to industry leaders that poorly managed conflict could be causing significant problems in their organizations” said Mark Fitzsimmons, Managing Director of Psychometrics Canada. “We expect conflict to grow in the current economy as one of the biggest causes of conflict rises – Stress.”

The study also uncovered a serious gap between the importance of conflict management skills and the effectiveness of current leaders. Nine out of ten rate the ability to handle conflict as either a very important or critical leadership skill. However, 18% of those surveyed indicated that current management and leadership is not at all effective at dealing with conflict, and 63% said that they are only somewhat effective.

Conflict Can Have Benefits if Managed Well

The study also shows that properly managed conflict benefits organizations. HR professionals have seen conflict lead to better solutions to problems and challenges (57%), major innovations (21%), increased motivation (31%), a better understanding of others (77%), and higher work team performance (40%).

Recommendations for managers to deal more effectively with conflict included: manage toxic individuals more firmly (75%), provide more clarity about their expectations (77%), and model appropriate behavior (84%). These recommendations seem to be self-evident, suggesting that when it comes to dealing with conflict, some managers are avoiding an important part of their job.

“This research clearly shows the positive and negative effects that conflict has in business”, said Shawn Bakker, Psychologist and Researcher at Psychometrics Canada.  “If organizations are to turn conflict into improved professional relationships and better organizational performance, they must invest the time to train and coach their employees to deal with different point of views, personalities and work styles”. 

To read the complete report, visit