Conflict is an inevitable part of organizational life and is commonly assumed to bring more harm than good to employees and organizations alike. However, research shows that conflict-positive organizations that embrace and encourage constructive conflict actually benefit from positive outcomes (e.g., employees feel more connected with others at work when conflict is approached constructively). Thus, both scholars and managers have long sought to cultivate more constructive attitudes and behaviors around workplace conflict.
Mindfulness is one promising factor that has shown to attenuate antisocial behaviors associated with conflict (e.g., retaliation and interpersonal aggression) and reduce workplace conflict altogether. Although there have been many studies demonstrating the effects of mindfulness in decreasing workplace conflict, very few have investigated how mindfulness helps employees manage conflict more constructively.
Kay and Skarlicki (2020) recently did just this. They conducted two studies—the first one looking at whether high levels of mindfulness relate to collaboration and conflict avoidance and the second testing the causal effect of mindfulness training on conflict management. They found that mindfulness increases collaboration and reduces avoidance and that these effects are attributable to more than just the emotional benefits of mindfulness.
These findings have notable implications for managerial practice. Organizations interested in reaping the benefits of having a conflict-positive workplace can offer mindfulness training to current employees. Such training could be a useful addition to traditional conflict management training in improving attitudes and behaviors around workplace conflict.
Kay, A. A. & Skarlicki, D. P. (2020). Cultivating a conflict-positive workplace: How mindfulness facilitates constructive conflict management. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 159, 8-20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.obhdp.2020.02.005