vPsychology for Business


We are dedicated to bringing out the best in you and your employees

Volume 3, Number 22                                                                                         November 1, 2002



Psychology for Business is an e-mail newsletter written by Dr. Lynda DahlkeDr. Paul Glass, and Dr. John Weaver,  business psychologists and independent consultants. It is published bi-weekly. You’ve received this newsletter because you’ve subscribed to it or it was forwarded to you by a friend or colleague. To subscribe sign up at our website,
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In a recent study reported in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, (October, 2002)  Drs. David Holman and Toby Wall noted that designing jobs in which workers have more control over how their work is done resulted in employees who are able to learn quicker, use their skills more effectively and experience their jobs as less stressful.  Control is a critical factor in creating an emotionally healthy workplace.

This newsletter was originally published on March 23, 2001


by Dr. Lynda Dahlke, Business Psychologist and Independent Consultant

Is there conflict in your work setting? There should be. Some level of disagreement is necessary in your organization or you could be in real trouble. A workplace without any conflict is in danger of being "static." Conflict can provide information to management as to how things are going within the organization. However, too much conflict, conflict poorly managed or unacknowledged is costly in lost time, productivity and personnel. Effective management of conflict can improve employee retention and productivity.

Types of Conflict

Robert Bacal of Bacal & Associates identifies two types of conflict:

1.) Constructive conflict—issue oriented

2.) Destructive conflict—personal; fueled by emotion

Constructive conflict, which deals with issues, can create the opportunity for a better outcome than either party’s original idea or position. While issue focused conflict can be productive, if managed effectively, destructive conflict is almost always an energy-sapping force in the organization. Destructive conflict is personal, not usually about issues. Generally, this type of conflict is about emotions and therefore is difficult to problem solve. Frequently the involved parties are not interested in solving the problems. Often these individuals become invested in "looking" for problems and the situation gets worse over time.

When faced with a conflict, first determine what kind of a conflict you are dealing with. This isn’t always easy. Ask yourself questions such as:

"How do I feel about the other person involved?"

"Is my emotional investment in this conflict equal to its importance?" 

Remember, no one wins in a personalized conflict. If the conflict can be redefined as a discussion about issues, the situation can improve.

Often it is helpful to redefine a conflictual issue as an opportunity. Working collaboratively to solve problems is an essential skill for survival in today’s workplace. Wherever people work together, conflict is inevitable, so be prepared to confront conflict. You must recognize conflict and understand the dynamics in order to seize the opportunity for a "win-win" resolution.

Are you Comfortable with Conflict?

Would you define yourself as a rottweiller or an ostrich? Often management expends a great deal of energy in the suppression of conflict. This is counterproductive and frequently escalates conflict. Instead, the focus should shift to the management of conflict to optimize an organizational potential. Effective conflict management enhances employee retention and productivity via improved morale. If conflict is suppressed in an organization, it becomes like a cancer to the organization; it goes underground and presents less opportunity to be managed. So, although you don’t need to become overly aggressive in your approach to conflict, you can’t afford to "stick your head in the sand" either.

Common Causes of Conflict

1.) Poor Communication

If there isn’t enough clear information being given to employees in a timely manner, their perception of control is decreased, causing feelings of insecurity and powerlessness. These feelings cause destructive stress in an individual.

2.) Lack of Trust

Trust is essential for cooperation. Again, clear communication between co-workers, management and employees is the basis for trust.

3.) Unclear Organizational Goals

The lack of clearly defined organizational goals leaves room for disparate agendas among employees. Well-defined, frequently communicated goals are essential for maximum organizational effectiveness.

4.) Job Insecurity

This can be experienced as powerlessness and a lack of control that contributes to discord.

5.) Perceived Unfairness

Consistent, clear communication of policies and anticipated changes, as well as opportunities for employees to collaborate in establishing policies will help to decrease perceptions of inequities in the workplace.

6.) Conflict Avoidance

If conflict is avoided, it almost always resurfaces in an escalated form.

Warning Signs That Conflict Has Gone Underground

1.) There are ongoing tensions between individuals and departments.

2.) Employees have given up trying to solve problems.

3.) Privately, employees complain and sub-groups split off to ruminate about problems.

4.) No team efforts are evidenced—everyone’s motto is "cover yourself."

Tips to Diffuse Destructive Conflict

1.) Management needs to deal with conflict and deal with it promptly. Don’t let it escalate.

2.) Listen. Listen to employee issues, and then paraphrase (repeat what you heard in your own words).

3.) Acknowledge and address employee’s feelings.

4.) Problem solve the issue.

5.) Re-address the feelings involved.

6.) Get an outside mediator if conflict continues.

7.) Be a role model. Employees watch how you deal with conflict and anger in the workplace.


Constructive, issue-oriented conflict is a sign of health in a dynamic, thriving organization. Personal or destructive conflict can drain precious resources and can even lead to violent reactions. Effective management of conflict in your organization can enhance your bottom line by creating a culture for increased innovation, retention and productivity.

How are you handling conflicts in your organization?


"Between 25 percent and 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies use executive coaches" Recent survey by The Hay Group, an International Human Resources consultancy

Did you know that executive coaching is not geographically limited?  Coaching by telephone is effective.  It is also an efficient use of time and resources.  You never need to leave your office to travel, nor do you need to pay travel expenses for your coach. We offer coaching either onsite or by telephone. To find out if coaching is right for you, contact us to schedule a free 1/2 hour consultation.  Or request a price sheet to determine the best value for your organization.  Call us at: (262) 789-2728 or email us at mailto:ldahlke@psychologyforbusiness.com.


About the Author

Lynda Dahlke, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and business consultant with over 20 years of practical experience working with individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds and levels of responsibility. She excels at delivering concise, actionable guidance and recommendations. Lynda specializes in pre-employment assessment, professional coaching, conflict management, assisting organizations to work with difficult individuals and personalities and organizational diagnostics/consulting.

Based in Waukesha, WI, Dr. Lynda Dahlke is available for consultation or coaching by phone, e-mail or in person. She may be reached at (262) 789-2728 (office), by e-mail at

Lynda Dahlke, Ph.D.
Psychology for Business
200 South Executive Drive, #101
Brookfield, WI 53005-4216

for our readers! 10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Coach
is now available for download only to readers of PSYCHOLOGY FOR BUSINESS by visiting http://www.psychologyforbusiness.com/questions.htm.

Also receive your copy of  9 Ways to Motivate Your Workforce by visiting http://www.psychologyforbusiness.com/motivate.htm

If you are interested in having Dr. Weaver speak for your organization, contact him at mailto:jweaver@psychologyforbusiness.com?subject=SPEAK .


To order your copy of the book, MANAGING DIFFICULT PERSONALITIES IN THE WORKPLACE: A Manager’s Practical Guide, by Dr. Paul Kenneth Glass, send your name, address, number of copies desired and a check made out to Dr. Paul Kenneth Glass for $12 per book (plus $2 shipping per book).  Or order 10 or more copies for $10 per book and $6.95 for shipping (up to 50 copies).  No fluff, this book gets right to the point. Send orders to:

Dr. Paul Kenneth Glass
Psychology for Business
2717 N. Grandview Blvd. #303
Waukesha, WI 53188   

Email: mailto:pglass@psychologyforbusiness.com

To order the booklet: 41 WAYS TO IMPROVE THE EMOTIONAL HEALTH OF YOUR WORKPLACE, by Dr. John Weaver send a check for $6 and a self-addressed, double stamped business size envelope to:

Dr. John Weaver
Psychology for Business
2717 N. Grandview Blvd. #303
Waukesha, WI 53188

If you would like to order multiple copies, send an email to mailto:jweaver@psychologyforbusiness.com to request a price sheet.  Order in quantity and save.


 All of our previous newsletters are archived at http://www.psychologyforbusiness.com/eNewsletter.htm.  Check out the series on The Vitamin C’s of an Emotionally Healthy Workplace, the series on Dealing with Difficult Employees, links to our Published Articles and our newest series, Triple "A" Leadership.


To subscribe, visit our website at http://www.psychologyforbusiness.com/.


If you would like to learn more about Dr. Lynda Dahlke (mailto:ldahlke@psychologyforbusiness.com), Dr. Paul Glass (mailto:pglass@psychologyforbusiness.com), and Dr. John Weaver (mailto:jweaver@psychologyforbusiness.com) please visit us at our website: http://www.psychologyforbusiness.com/.


© Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. Lynda Dahlke. Distribution rights: The above material is copyrighted, but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. If you would like to reprint part of this newsletter please contact me at mailto:ldahlke@psychologyforbusiness.com to make arrangements.

Sharing this newsletter with colleagues and friends, under these conditions, is encouraged.


If you have a question or topic you would like to see covered, send your request to

Dr. John Weaver publishes another newsletter, co-authored by Darlene Weaver, THE CENTERED PENDULUMIt is our firm belief that lifelong patterns of “being” (personality, attitudes, emotions) and “doing” (lifestyle, adaptability, coping skills) interact with our genes and environment to create conditions of a healthy or a diseased brain.  If you would like to read previous issues of the Centered Pendulum newsletter or to subscribe, please visit the archives at http://www.centeredpendulum.org/newsletters.htm.