Department of Medicine

Conflict Resolution

Disagreements and conflicts happen. They may be between supervisor and student, or within a research group (e.g., between a student and staff member, or between students). They can be destructive and cause significant distress for both parties, particularly if not addressed promptly.

Should a disagreement arise between you and a staff member, another student, or your supervisor, we would encourage you to sit down with that individual to discuss the matter in a non-judgmental and calm fashion. If you cannot resolve the problem, you should follow these steps:

  1. Contact the Graduate Education Committee Chair to meet with all parties involved to explore solutions.
  2. If that does not result in resolution of the problem, you should contact the Student OmbudsService to help act as a professional impartial third party. Please refer to the Student OmbudService website, call them at (780) 492-4689 or email

Regardless of the method you choose, the following principles of conflict resolution should be considered (taken from the Student OmbudService website)

  • Address the conflict early, before it becomes much more complex;
  • Separate the person from the problem;
  • Use your discretion when deciding who to tell about the conflict. Not everyone needs to know;
  • Focus on interests rather than clinging to your position;
  • Commit to finding a mutually beneficial outcome – work toward win-win solutions;
  • Avoid blaming others; you are each responsible for your own behaviour;
  • Listen actively; genuinely try to understand the other person’s perspective;
  • Validate what he or she is communicating to you;
  • Work on letting go of resentments – they can only impede the process;
  • Keep the lines of communication open; and
  • Focus on the future.

You may find that the Department of Medicine’s document “Working with Respect” is useful to you.

Jayson MacLean, PhD
Graduate Ombudsperson
Student OmbudService
5-02 Students’ Union Building
Tel: 780-492-4689