Healthy Conflict Resolution in the Workplace Begins with Ethical Leadership

One of the central tasks of leadership in an organization is to set the tone for how conflict will be managed.  A culture of positive conflict resolution in the workplace tends to lead to higher job satisfaction and more efficient operations because relationships are preserved and conflict is addressed, rather than avoided (Belias & Koustilios, 2014).  Conflict is easier to address within this positive culture because people feel safer with those that may be involved with the conflict. 

A fundamental element of creating a safer workplace is the development of safe and respectful practices for engaging in conflict. In order for a culture of positive conflict resolution to exist within an organization, it must be modeled by the leadership of the organization.  Employees need to see examples of healthy conflict resolution and ethical behavior from the leaders in their organization.  There are five key principles of ethical leadership (Northouse, 2013):

  1. Ethical leaders respect others.  Respect is a foundational ingredient to a healthy workplace culture.  Leaders must demonstrate respect in their interactions if they are to expect others to do so.
  2. Ethical leaders serve others. The welfare of an organization’s employees is of utmost importance to the health of the organization.  Ethical leaders do everything in their power to uplift the conditions of their employees. This can include mentoring and empowering employees on their own self development journey.
  3. Ethical leaders are just.  Leaders must be concerned with fairness and justice.  Employees will feel safest during conflict if they know that they will be treated fairly
  4. Ethical leaders are honest.  Trust is fundamental to the development of healthy relationships. An ethical leader must be transparent and cultivate honesty throughout the organization, even when it is difficult to do so. The perception that employees have of a leader’s integrity is often through the lens of that leader’s honesty. 
  5. Ethical leaders build community.  An ethical leader considers the purposes and motivations of their employees and actively seeks out the interests of the community and organizational culture.  The measure of community is the connections between people.  Healthy relationships are the foundation of community.

John Windsor – Director Technical Curricula

Belias, D., Koustelios, A. (2014). Organizational culture and job satisfaction: a review. International Review of Management and Marketing, 4(2), 132-149.

Northouse, P.G., (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Sage Publications, Inc.

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