Marion Karimjooy
, February 9, 2024
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A company is a microsociety that reflects the world we live in. And all organizations must deal with the conflicts affecting the entire planet between their members. Naturally, these organizational microcosms exist on a much smaller scale. But did you know it’s normal for us to not agree with our colleagues or the people around us on everything? It’s just part of life!

Relationships have become so complex that they can lead to misunderstandings and uncertainty in how we relate to others, creating a breeding ground for conflicts. However, as change starts first and foremost within ourselves, we can challenge our own behaviours. How, as microcommunities within society, can organizations create the conditions for successfully maintaining healthy, respectful and fair relationships?

I’ll give you a hint: by taking a step back and scrutinizing our own actions.

By taking stock of our personal, collective and organizational circumstances, we foster the openness necessary for building relationships conducive to dialogue and workplace collaboration. This is what I like to call the alchemical approach for fair relationships. Let me explain.

The foundations of relationship-based organizational management

To properly understand the alchemical approach, I invite you to travel back in time to the 1920s, when psychologist Elton Mayo put forward a new theory that employees are not machines and should not be treated as such. In other words, you can’t just push them to produce.

According to Mayo, organizations should instead treat every person as an individual and be attentive to their needs. Why? Because, as he understood, the way that people behave in a group tends to affect each individual group member.  

This is what we call—drumroll, please... human relationships! While sometimes meaningful, fun or even stressful, they’re as inevitable as they are important. Embodied in our friendships and romantic relationships, they create a space for potential conflicts to emerge.

To address this, Mayo established the foundations of relationship-based organizational management. We can certainly draw inspiration from his work to create a healthy and collaborative environment within our organizations.

With all this in mind, we should examine how we deal with the differences in our daily lives, and more specifically, how we approach workplace conflicts. After this look back in time, let's now explore the ins and outs of using the alchemical approach for building fair relationships.

How do we build fair relationships at work when faced with diverging opinions?

As I mentioned at the top, organizations reflect society with their various successes, failures, conflicts and even challenges. The way we face a conflict is what determines whether or not it will be resolved.

The question is therefore, how do we approach conflictual events and situations in our professional lives? To answer this, we need to understand two key elements of conflict.

First off, how does the conflict make us feel? Are we coming from a place of vengeance, anger or hate, or conversely, wisdom, attentiveness and understanding? Are we determined to find a middle ground, or do we gravitate toward a polarized position, an I’m right/you’re wrong, or for/against dynamics? Let me remind you that these absolutes are dead ends. They tend to exacerbate situations rather than resolve them. When we adopt these dynamics, whether at work or in our personal lives, everyone loses.

Secondly, the reaction we experience will be closely tied to how we approach and manage the conflict.

From now on, I invite you to observe and reflect your reaction to different situations and challenges that you may encounter. Conflicts are no small matter and represent opportunities for growth.

Act with kindness and in good faith—even if you don’t agree!

A few essential qualities for better workplace conflict resolution

We always need to keep in mind that organizations are made up of people with different backgrounds from all walks of life who are in daily contact. Despite their individuality, it’s possible to create an environment conducive to positive and fair relationships. Read on for the fundamental (and essential!) qualities needed to take the alchemical approach to conflict resolution.


It takes courage to see a situation for what it is without bias. Remember that if we are experiencing conflict, it’s because the issue resonates with our inner sensitivities.  

Reflecting on an event from an outside perspective makes it easier to address the issue with the people involved. It’s important to discuss the disagreement in a calm and candid manner to find an effective outcome where everyone wins.


I think we’d all agree that everyone appreciates when others are honest, genuine and trustworthy. What if we started being this sincere with ourselves?  

This essential quality allows us to analyze the workplace conflict and better identify the emotions it provokes for us. Are we feeling unfairness, rejection, humiliation, abandonment or betrayal? By being honest with ourselves, we can determine what was triggered within us and therefore avoid blaming external circumstances.


This is the important quality that allows us to recognize our own faults, weaknesses and shortcomings.  

When resolving a conflict, humility is what allows us to see ourselves as we are, with all our flaws and past mistakes. Our life experiences shape our circumstances. This societal and family background can explain why conflicts may arise. Remember that absolutely no one is perfect.

Taking responsibility

I like this one. Let’s stop pointing the finger to pass off the blame and instead acknowledge our actions and take ownership of our behaviours. Give yourself the opportunity to admit your own mistakes. We are socially conditioned to want to blame others. Knowing how to shoulder your responsibilities is a quality that can defuse many a situation.

As an example of taking responsibility, let’s imagine that a friend has asked you to pick her up. The road conditions are good: you have good visibility and the roads are not slippery. Despite everything, you get into a car accident on the way to her house. How would you react? Would you be likely to blame your friend who asked you for a favour? Let’s look at the situation differently. Of course it isn’t your friend’s fault. Might it be the consequence of your carelessness or your driving? Remember that you are the master of your actions and are solely responsible for them.

Here are the qualities you need to make a subtle but (very) effective difference in how you handle any conflict you encounter, whether it’s intrapersonal, interpersonal, collective or individual.


These qualities can be used as tools to better understand the situations you experience and therefore facilitate the resolution process for any disagreements. That said, I want to add one important point. I add generously a secret ingredient to all my relationships for the perfect recipe: communication. This is our main alchemical element that links the conflict to the qualities mentioned here.

Without it, nothing is made, nothing in undone, nothing is achieved and nothing makes sense. Communication is the key as well as the basis for healthy relationships in all spheres of our lives. To quote noted communication theorist Paul Watzlawick of the Palo Alto School, “One cannot not communicate.” In other words, we transmit a message even when by saying nothing.

We all have the ability to contribute, with humility and honesty, to building harmonious relationships in our organizations. We all have the great privilege of being the master of our own actions and emotions. Let’s make this our resolution and shared vision for the year to come. Let’s bring about change within ourselves so we can enjoy the benefits together. 

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