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The Cost of Workplace Conflict and the Power of Emotional Intelligence

Workplace conflict is a significant issue, costing the UK economy an estimated £28.5 billion annually, with nearly half a million employees resigning each year due to unresolved conflicts (Acas, 2021). However, emotional intelligence (EI) can play a crucial role in mitigating these conflicts and improving leadership effectiveness.

Emotional Intelligence is a key theme on our leadership and business development program, LEAD™, where delegates look at its use and importance in responding effectively to challenging situations.




Self-aware leaders possess the ability to understand, use, and manage their emotions, as well as those of the people around them. This emotional insight guides their thinking and behavior, leading to more effective leadership.

As Tasha Eurich explains, "When we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative. We make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively... and we’re more effective leaders with more satisfied employees and more profitable companies."

Leaders who are self-aware can recognise potential flashpoints in themselves and others, using their communication skills to ensure productive conversations that lead to the best outcomes.


Self-management is key to navigating thoughts, feelings, and emotions to make appropriate decisions, maintain focus, and approach problems with a clear head. Daniel Goleman, in "The New Leaders," describes self-management as the component of emotional intelligence that "keeps disruptive emotions from throwing us off track."

In stressful situations, emotionally intelligent leaders can recognise negative emotions while remaining clear-headed and calm.

Social awareness

Social awareness and empathy are crucial skills in conflict resolution. Empathy, as defined by the Cambridge Dictionary, is "the ability to share someone else's feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person's situation."

Understanding another person’s perspective allows leaders to acknowledge their feelings or frustrations and find reasonable solutions, even if they do not agree with their viewpoint.

Relationship Management

Goleman describes relationship management as the integration of self-awareness, self-management, and empathy. Effective relationship management involves influence, communication, and conflict management—all essential for leaders dealing with challenging situations.

Rather than avoiding difficult conversations, leaders with strong conflict management skills confidently address issues in a timely and constructive manner.

Tips for Using Emotional Intelligence in Difficult Conversations

1. Don’t avoid the issue
Avoiding difficult conversations allows issues to fester, leading to resentment and escalation. Practice and confidence-building are key to improving this skill. Understand your emotions to communicate them better.

2. Become more curious
Show genuine interest in understanding why someone feels or acts a certain way. Practice active listening, avoid interrupting, and ask open-ended questions to gain insight into their perspective.

3. Reduce your ‘emotional hijack’
Maintain control over your emotional responses to keep discussions calm and productive. Techniques like deep breathing can help you stay composed and think clearly.

4. Prepare for the conversation
Effective preparation and structuring of the conversation help keep it focused on facts, behavior, and desired outcomes. Consider your end goal and be ready to listen to the other person's perspective.

5. Use structure to positively influence the outcome
Structure difficult conversations to reduce emotion and maintain focus. Be objective and factual when giving feedback, and clearly communicate the desired changes in behavior.

Emotional intelligence is crucial for leaders to tackle difficult conversations effectively. By developing and honing this skill, leaders can enhance their leadership performance and help their teams achieve their best potential.

For more insights on leadership, consider investing in your development, your team's development, and your organisation’s development. Our next program for developing middle and junior managers (LEADlight) starts in November, and our next effective leadership program (LEAD™) for senior leaders and managers begins on 7th and 8th November.

To discuss how these programs could benefit you and your organisation, please contact us here.



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