Wars at Work: Resolving Workplace Conflict

By Kaveh Mir

Five years before I was running a software house, we had just decided to merge the software business with a consultancy form. The merger had made perfect sense: we would not only distribute software but also teach people how to use it. Combining the expertise of our separate staffs would make us more visible, more approachable, more successful, and inevitably richer. But little did I anticipate the struggles, control issues, and interpersonal strife that would be part of our decision. Merging companies means bringing together groups of people, intermingling work styles and work ethics, expanding the mix of personalities that the workplace comprises. Conflict was unavoidable.

After five years of constant war, I was exhausted, defeated. I could take no more. Yet as I gazed towards the projection of my remembered battles, another idea broke into my mind like light into a tunnel: I can change this.

For 15 years I had been studying psychometric personality measures. I’d started this course of study as something of a hobby, but somewhere in the back of my mind always simmered the idea that personality measurement could make a profound difference in the workplace. I’d learned that the majority of issues – whether at work, home, school, the gym, wherever – could be solved simply by better understanding ourselves and other people. Alone in my office that Friday afternoon, I realized that here lay the answer to my dilemma.

I could put my knowledge to its best use. Using my understanding of the behavioral sciences and their psychometrics, I could help my software and consultancy colleagues resolve their battles. But I didn’t have to stop there. I could guide any individuals, or entire companies, to bring their workplace wars to a satisfactory end.

My Friday-afternoon epiphany was the beginning of my book. I resolved to turn my idea into a gift for others, to spread my knowledge in the world. I decided to find a way to teach others that understanding and honoring personality differences, then practically applying that understanding to positive problem-solving, can win lasting peace at work, foster camaraderie, and engender personal satisfaction.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that everyone who ever works with others at a job will at some point encounter conflict. No mater what your industry, no mater your position, you will one day find yourself in a disagreement. Whenever two or more people combine forces to accomplish a project, misunderstandings will occur. Battles will be joined. War will break out.

Work is arguably the largest component of a typical human life. Think about it: Most of us spend more time at work than we do with our spouses, our children, or our religious communities. And there’s no question that work is our primary source of anxiety. When we wage workplace wars, our home lives suffer too. Relationships with family and friends become strained; spousal bonds sometimes break. Anxiety brings emotional and mental distress, even physical illness or incapacity.

Fallout from work problems travels beyond the individual and the home. Work battles translate into huge amounts of wasted efficiency and lost productivity. That damages not only a specific company and its bottom line, but also the employee workforce and our society as a whole. Work war is bad for everyone.

But there’s hope. Conflicts can be settled, and peace can prevail. You may not be able to win the workplace war, but battle flames can be doused; work problems can be addressed and solved successfully. Sometimes the onset of war can be avoided altogether.

We can learn to understand the personalities of each individual involved and apply that understanding to identify a solution – a solution that satisfies everybody. It may sound too easy, but it works.

My recent book was written to help readers discover and comprehend the practical toolkit of psychometric measures, methods to characterize and define personalities, and to illustrate how those tools can be applied to resolve workplace conflicts. If we become aware of and learn to understand the personality differences between ourselves and others, we can build a conceptual framework within which we can solve workplace problems constructively.


About the Author:

Kaveh Mir is the author of Wars at Work: An Action Guide for Resolving Workplace Battles. He is a public speaker, career advisor and organizational coach who has nearly 20 years of experience as a CEO and business consultant. He received a MBA from the Caranfield School of Management and a M.S. in human-computer interaction. Mir is certified by the International Coaching Federation as well as the British Psychology Association in both ability and personality assessments. For more information, visit: http://www.warsatwork.info