Acceptance of Differences To Resolve Conflict

“Your brain is like velcro for negative experiences and teflon for positive ones.” (Hansen, Mendius). As terrible as it sounds, it’s true. And as a leader, this is something that deserves your careful attention especially during the stress of COVID 19, the work from home stress as well as the current political and racial divide occurring at this time in history. The truth is, conflict-free workplaces don’t exist. Moreover, negativity and retaliatory behaviors can seriously inhibit trusting professional relationships from developing. The good news is that you can counteract negative conflict with acceptance. Acceptance is acknowledging what has happened and accepting the truth of the situation. This is a powerful activity for us all, leader or not. 


How to use acceptance

"Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to what happens to us."- Charles Swindoll

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet because acceptance is a choice. It comes easy for some and hard for most. It is important because, as Charles Swindoll’s quote exemplifies, you can’t readily change how another person acts toward you, but you can change the way you respond to that person. Therefore, acceptance of differences should be an important tenet for you as a leader and within the company’s culture.  

This idea of acceptance needs to be understood and followed within the organization, especially in relation to how leaders interact with employees. When employees acknowledge the truth of a workplace situation, only then can they move toward acceptance. This will ultimately allow them to let go, to learn, make changes, forgive, move on, and trust. Because acceptance doesn’t come easily for many, conflict often occurs at work.


Workplace conflict

Be it strictly between employees, between employees and their leadership, or employees and the organization itself, conflict will occur. Although in some cases conflict can be good, it can help bring attention to issues that can have negative effects on the workforce and the business. Ultimately, for acceptance to be a realistic expectation, conflict, especially if recurring, should be resolved.

It’s been said to take as many as 5 positive experiences to counter a negative experience. This is what makes elimination of recurring conflict so important. Your first step as a leader should be to identify potential sources of conflict in the organization. In general, you can sometimes expect conflict as a result of the following:

  • Leadership style

  • Work-related interdependencies

  • Work-style differences

  • Workplace culture 

  • Personality differences

Left unmanaged, conflict from these areas can have serious effects on a workforce such as increased stress, decreased productivity, decreased motivation, increased absenteeism, increased turnover, etc. Being the role model for emotional intelligence for your team can also help set expectations for acceptance of differences in your organization. 


While not easy, acceptance is key to developing trusting professional relationships. Without acceptance, it becomes very difficult for relationships at work to progress beyond conflict points. As a leader, you may need to focus on acceptance and make sure conflict levels are manageable in your organization. If you’d like to discuss the ways to reduce conflict and promote acceptance within your organization, contact me