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Planning for Conflict 

Poor management of workplace conflict costs Australian businesses billions every year in stress-related absenteeism. So isn’t it time we planned for conflict, and approached conflict collaboratively rather than combatively? Yes, it’s possible… 

If you’re like most people, just the thought of conflict makes you cringe. But with a little planning and skill development, it doesn’t have to. Claire Holland, who heads up James Cook University’s Conflict Management and Resolution (CMR) Program, says a shift in perspective can make all the difference. 

“While studying law, I recognised that lawyers are often trained to pick one side and fight, which can lead to a lose-lose outcome,” Claire says. 

“By thinking about conflict in a collaborative, rather than combative, paradigm you can choose to engage with people in a win-win fashion.” 

A recent study by Google shows so-called ‘soft’ skills such as communication outweigh ‘technical’ or ‘hard’ skills as a measure of organisational success. 

“We’re actually seeing a change in terminology from ‘soft’ skills to ‘core’ skills to reflect their importance,” Claire says. 

“Google has found that investing in people who have those ‘core’ skills around communication, empathy, good listening and emotional intelligence is fundamental to their business success. 

“Especially considering the current workplace now looks very different to how it did pre-COVID. More than ever, employees who are able to cope with change and lead others through emotionally tiring times are prized.” 

People from a range of different backgrounds and organisations find conflict management training useful because it can be applied to any context, whether it be work or home relationships. 

“We’re seeing a rising trend in employers enrolling staff in the CMR Program as part of their professional development,” Claire says.

“Should you choose to dive further into CMR you may be surprised to discover that an undergraduate degree is not a pre-requisite to acceptance. If you’ve been working in business or managerial positions, we expect you’d have a solid foundation of knowledge and skills to build on and would grant entry.”

The Graduate Certificate of Conflict Management and Resolution takes a year to complete part-time and consists of four subjects.

“We’ve recently moved into a trimester model, meaning you can do three subjects throughout the year, studying only one subject at a time. This is fantastic for those with extremely busy schedules, such as working parents,” Claire says.

“Everything is available online for external students, who study our subjects from all over Australia or internationally. And we offer intensive workshops for students seeking that direct interaction, so students can tailor their learning experience.”

Your credit for completion of a Graduate Certificate in Conflict Management and Resolution can also be counted toward a Master of Conflict and Management and Resolution (MCMR), a Master of Business Administration (MBA), or a combined MCMR-MBA. And, if a closer focus on technical skills is more what you’re eyeing, there’s the new Graduate Certificate of Project Management on offer. In this way, you can combine technical knowledge with the communication skills needed to action it effectively.

“We attract a mature-aged cohort, who are often returning to study to develop their leadership skills or are seeking a career change,” Claire says.

For businesses, planning for conflict is also just smart business as it results in better employee health, productivity and retention. 

Being able to handle conflict effectively keeps teams engaged and empowered to make a positive difference. And, from a public perspective, it protects your business brand by reducing bad word of mouth. The bottom line… the ability to handle difficult situations constructively is critical to business success.


Excited about conflict management and resolution? Email Claire Holland at to find out more about James Cook University’s post-graduate study options




Compiled by the BDmag editorial team


Compiled by the BDmag editorial team