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A Systems Approach to Building Peace in the Workplace

By Dr. Robyn Short, CEO of Workplace Peace Institute

Peace in the workplace exists when individuals experience security, dignity, and a working environment that is free of fear. This criteria for peace is the same criteria necessary for fostering a working environment in which employees are highly engaged and able to experience their personal and professional potential. Creativity, collaboration, and high-level problem-solving are optimized when people feel valued, respected, and safe.

Workplace conflict — defined as anything that disrupts the flow of work — is not in and of itself a barrier to peace. Conflict presents opportunities for increasing trust, strengthening relationships, and improving problem-solving. However, when conflict is managed destructively and used as an opportunity for blaming, shaming, one-upping, or as a means of destructive competition, it can produce insecurity, a lack of emotional (and sometimes physical) safety, compromise a person’s sense of dignity, and cultivate a culture of fear — all of which reduces employee engagement, minimizes creativity, and discourages collaboration.

How an organization manages conflict has a profound effect on the entire organizational system.

A system is a collection of components that interact together to perform a particular function. In the workplace, this system is comprised of the leadership, the individuals employed by the organization, as well as the mission, vision, and values that have been established to form a specific culture and the services and products produced by the organization. The system is more than the sum of its individual components, as the broader interactions within the system also effect the way the individual components themselves operate, interact, and relate to one another.

This means that a passive aggressive CEO, a supervisor who gets results by bullying others, leadership that turns a blind eye to abuses of power, destructive competition, or any other behavior that deteriorates trust and a minimizes a person’s ability to experience security and dignity affects more than the intended target of the behavior; it has a ripple effect across the entire organization. The actions of one has an effect on the entire system.

A systems approach to building peace in the workplace requires an intentional and concerted commitment to fostering a culture of human security and human dignity.

The organization’s mission, vision, and values must align to this commitment and must be modeled every day by leadership. Creating opportunities for professional development, including training that increases each person’s capacity for managing conflict, increasing emotional intelligence, and developing shared processes and language for navigating disputes are essential.

Peace in the workplace matters. Peace is an essential criteria for cultivating the highest potential from the individuals and teams within the organization and fostering a high-performing workforce that innovates with enthusiasm.

Learn more about how you can illuminate paths to peace in your organization at


An international speaker, peace-building trainer and mediator with expertise in restorative justice and transformative mediation models, Dr. Robyn Short works with individuals, corporations, and nonprofit organizations in discovering the root causes of their conflicts, so they may transform their relationships and create new and productive paths forward individually and as teams. In addition to her mediation and conflict training practice through Workplace Peace Institute, Dr. Short is an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University in the Master of Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution program, the Master of Leadership and Negotiation at Bay Path University, and Lipscomb University's Master in Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution. She has guest lectured at Pepperdine University and Creighton University. Dr. Short has authored four books on peace building.


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