BCPSEA would like to gratefully acknowledge that our office is located on the traditional an unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples. Our work spans across the traditional homelands of hundreds of Inuit, Métis, and First Nations people across British Columbia, each with their own unique traditions, history, and culture. We are committed to Reconciliation and to strong Indigenous partnerships and relationships.

Please take a moment to reflect on the traditional territories in which you are located.

Productive Workplace Interactions

Workplace conflict occurs when there’s a disagreement among employees due to opposing interests, personalities, purposes, beliefs, or ideas. Conflict in the workplace is natural and inevitable. But it’s our perception of conflict that will colour our experience.

Debbie Craig

This series of videos, presented by Debbie Craig, Director of Labour Relations at BCPSEA, will highlight productive ways to address conflicts you may encounter in the workplace. Debbie has a degree in business and in liberal arts from Simon Fraser University. Debbie has worked in the Labour Relations field, primarily for public sector employers, for 30 years. Before joining BCPSEA in 2017, Debbie worked as the Director of Labour Relations for the Surrey School District.

Watch the following videos and work through the activities to gain understanding of how to become better at resolving disputes, by:

  • Identifying the dynamics that escalate conflict
  • Becoming aware of personal biases and assumptions that influence conflict
  • Practicing communication skills that shift defensiveness and blame to assertiveness, understanding, and collaboration

Pause and Ponder

Take a moment to think about a recent conflict you’ve been in, either personal or at work. Reflect on the body mind experience of this Conflict Moment.

Write down a word, phrase,  image, sound and/or, taste you associate with being in that conflict situation.

Perhaps you noted something like one of these:

  • Uncomfortable
  • Anxious
  • Tense
  • Defensive
  • Bitter

Next think of a few words to describe positive things that can come from conflict. Write these down, then check some examples.

Perhaps you noted some like these:

  • Resolution
  • Relief
  • Closure
  • Change
  • Understanding
  • Trust

Pause and Ponder

Review what we’ve covered so far by taking this 3-question quiz.

Please Check your answer before moving to the next question.

Pause and Ponder

Pause and Ponder

Part A

Read each of the following closed questions and choose your initial interpretation of its meaning (there’s no right or wrong answer).

Please Check your answer before moving to the next question.

Part B

Well crafted, open questions help people understand and provide the information you’re looking for. Rewrite each question so its meaning is clear.

Rewrite to ask if budget will be impacted:

Do you expect additional budget for that?

How will that impact the budget?

What impact will this have on the budget?

Given the budget, what will we be able to do?

Rewrite to ask who will deliver the report and where:

Are you going to deliver that report at the staff meeting?

Who is best to deliver that report? When is the best time to do so?

Is the staff meeting the best time to deliver that report? Who should present it?

Rewrite to explain why you want the report reviewed and how to make that happen:

Can I review the report before it goes out?

I want to make sure the report is accurate, contains key messaging, is well-written, and grammatically correct.

How can we do that?

What’s the best process for doing that?

Who should review before sending out?

Pause and Ponder

Paraphrasing an unclear question as a statement can help you get clarity before you answer. Paraphrase a statement for each of the unclear questions from before.


Do you expect additional budget for that?

You’re concerned about the possible impact on budget.

You’re wondering if I think the budget will be impacted.

You want me to consider the possible impact on budget.


Are you going to deliver that report at the staff meeting?

You’re concerned about who will present the report and when they‘ll do so.

You’re wondering when the report will be presented and who will do it.

You want me to deliver the report at the staff meeting.


Can I review the report before it goes out?

You’re concerned about the quality of the report.

You’re wondering how to make sure the report is accurate before it goes out.

You want me to make sure the report is reviewed before it goes out.

Paraphrasing can also be used to express empathy.

Paraphrase to show empathy:

I’m so overwhelmed by all the work I need to do. I’m really questioning if all this should be my responsibility!

I appreciate you’re feeling overwhelmed.

I can imagine how frustrating it feels to have too much to do.

I would be asking the same questions you are.

Pause and Ponder

Rate each statement for its use of language (passive, assertive, or aggressive).

Please Check your answer before moving to the next question.

Pause and Ponder

Consider this question, then check your answer.

What three communication skills help us with deal with interpersonal conflict?

These three communication skills help us resolve interpersonal conflict:

  • Question, use open ended questions to gain clarity
  • Paraphrase to ensure you understand
  • Assert to express yourself on an equal power level

Congratulations, you’ve now completed Productive Workplace Interactions!