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Carreer Junction by Michele Majul-IbarraMaintaining harmony at work

by Michele Majul-Ibarra

Most of us spend a large portion of our days at work. As a matter of fact, the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime. Given this reality, the majority of our interactions happen at work. For some, conflict is inevitable, particularly in smaller work environments and smaller teams. For the most part conflict is not necessarily a bad thing because disagreements and ideas can often lead to innovation and problem solving.

Some people believe that conflict is a disagreement between two or more people, but most of the time, it starts within ourselves. While we may point fingers and blame the other person about an issue, the important thing is to find a balance by allowing ourselves to manage our emotions and to be open to establish a common ground with the other person. Negative responses to conflict can often result into something unproductive and destructive, but how can harmony be maintained at work when conflict seems to be inevitable?

Civility and respect

Civility is basically everyone’s responsibility. According to The Institute for Civility in Government, “Civility is about more than just politeness, although politeness is a necessary first step. It is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue about differences, listening past one’s preconceptions, and teaching others to do the same. Civility is the hard work of staying present even with those with whom we have deep-rooted and fierce disagreements … and civility begins with us”.

It is quite a lengthy definition, but it captures the essence of how to be civil and respectful. In contrast, incivility and disrespect are the complete opposite. Uncivil behaviours can hinder effective communication and performance at work, and it can take many forms such as rude comments, gossip, crude jokes, profanity, and even threats or workplace violence. If we develop an awareness for ourselves, we can expect to be role models, which may lead to a higher chance of respectful and civil behaviour spreading in the workplace and beyond.


This is an extremely valuable trait to have at work and it simply means taking responsibility or ownership for your actions. The opposite of accountability is putting blame on others or using the “not my fault” attitude. The reality is that we are humans, and we will make mistakes; what matters is how these mistakes are handled. Being accountable for your actions is approaching your manager directly to make them aware of the issue or conflict and explain how you might have contributed to the problem. By doing this, the manager will not only appreciate the honesty, but also appreciate your willingness to learn and be better in handling conflict or issues going forward.

Focus on solutions

Having a solution-focused attitude is not only a positive trait but also a good way to move forward from a conflict. Being stuck on an issue can be a barrier to a harmonious relationship with others, and can cause frustration from not being able to resolve issues.

There is no secret formula to maintaining harmony at work, but there are many ways to handle conflict and it starts within us. Recognizing how we might have contributed to a conflict is a big thing; the other piece is awareness and willingness to move forward to be better.

This article is intended for information purposes only and not to be considered as professional advice.

Michele Majul-Ibarra, IPMA-ACP holds an Advanced Certified HR Professional Designation with the International Personnel Management Association


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