Jim Tamm Reveals His Secret To Mitigating Workplace Conflict for Increased Productivity

Fredrik JergmoNews

 Jon Stojan Contributor, USA TODAY, Published Sept. 1, 2023.

Conflict is inevitable and normal. Handled well it improves productivity; handled poorly or shied away from causes trouble. As much as most business owners and managers are aware that workplace conflict exists, they often shy away from these conversations. According to Jim Tamm, a collaboration specialist, conflict avoidant and passive aggressive workplaces have become the most predominant organizational culture today, and ignoring it will simply make things worse. Conflict is a phenomenon as old as humans themselves. Not handled well it decreases productivity, and causes work disruptions, project failure, absenteeism, and higher turnover, among other problems. 

Tamm is a former US judge who has 50 years experience in alliance building and conflict resolution. Tamm is also an expert in building collaborative workplace environments for superior productivity and profitability. He believes that adequate conflict management and alliance building are what separate positive, progressive relationships from toxic and retrogressive ones. He advises individuals, staff and members of management to better manage their defensiveness in order to maintain a healthy living and work environment. “If you’re trying to build collaboration, solve problems, or build relationships, and you start getting defensive, it’s like throwing blood in the water to a shark. It just creates a feeding frenzy,” he says. 

According to Tamm, building more effective collaboration within organizations is a passionate part of his life, and not just a career. His desire to teach collaboration skills has produced dramatic results across multiple industries. The former judge reveals that his wealth of experience as a mediator, judge and conflict resolution expert, has been spelled out in his book, Radical Collaboration. He notes that Radical Collaboration is a guide for individuals and organizations that wish to become more skillful at collaborative relationships. “When organizations get better at collaboration, they dramatically improve productivity, because you can’t compete externally if you can’t first collaborate internally.” 

“Radical Collaboration is the ultimate guide for individuals and organizations that seek to leverage collaborative relationships for improved productivity and efficiency. The book offers readers practical tools that are immediately applicable in creating stronger, more collaborative relationships in and outside their workplaces. With Radical Collaboration, readers learn to better deal with their own defensiveness while understanding how to manage that of others. They also acquaint themselves with skills to negotiate their way through the murky waters of conflict, as it is inevitable in human interaction. Furthermore, they learn to solve problems and meet the interests of various parties, while building a more collaborative environment where everyone grows together. The principles in the book are applicable in both work and interpersonal relationships. Applying these principles will dramatically increase engagement, openness, accountability, and sharpen conflict resolution skills, enabling people to better manage their relationships.” 

Tamm, who has mediated more than 1,000 disputes, has also worked with a diverse clientbase of international organizations, “Just about every sector benefits from more effective collaboration”.

He is currently on the faculty of the International Management Program of the Stockholm School of Economics, the Leadership Academy of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Wallenberg Institute in Sweden. 

“I love speaking to organizations to leverage radical collaboration for dramatic growth. Lately, I have been doing more keynote speeches helping organizations foster collaboration, which is critical for superior performance and getting the best out of their workforces,” Tamm reiterates. 

Speaking about some of the highpoints of his five-decade professional career, Tamm says his legal decisions have impacted national labor policy in the US, while building bridges among thousands of people. He adds that aside from mediating more than 1,000 employment disputes, he has also written training materials that have been published in eighteen languages. These and other achievements earned him recognition by the California Senate, the California Assembly and the California Public Employment Relations Board for building more collaborative employment environments.

Tamm hopes that his book, Radical Collaboration, and his public speaking can indeed help individuals and organizations get the best out of their relationships and leverage one another for optimum growth and prosperity. 

Members of the editorial and news staff of the USA TODAY Network were not involved in the creation of this content.