When Conflicts are Resolved, Diversity of Viewpoints Fuels Innovation in Clinical Trials

Stephanie Christopher headshot

Stephanie Christopher, MA, CCRC, FACRP, Director Patient Advocacy, Pfizer

As the clinical trial industry works to more effectively promote diversity in the workplace, it’s important to remember that different perspectives are at the core of innovation—if conflicts are handled effectively—says Stephanie Christopher, associate director of research programs with the National Organization for Rare Diseases.

While it starts at the top of the organization chart, there’s a role for everyone to play when it comes to creating a positive, open company culture that views problems as opportunities and not exercises in finger pointing, Christopher says. She’ll offer proven tools and tactics to foster a positive culture during an upcoming ACRP webinar.

It begins with an understanding of what conflicts are, Christopher notes. “Conflicts aren’t inherently bad,” she says. “They are a natural offshoot of people having different perspectives.” At their core, conflicts are merely “misalignments of perception or values,” she adds.

In fact, like Kelly Willenberg, DBA, RN, CCRP, CHC, CHRC, manager of Kelly Willenberg & Associates, Christopher is a big fan of leveraging conflicts to improve overall team and individual performance. “Conflicts can be a good thing,” she says, emphasizing how they can inject “new perspectives and create innovation.”

Clinical trial practitioners should be empowered to raise concerns and call attention to problem areas, Christopher says. “It’s not always easy and quick, but when people can address problems” it is vastly superior to conflict avoidance, which is “not a helpful long-term strategy,” she explains.

In the end, it’s more about listening with intent than trying to assign blame. Christopher encourages people on both sides of a sticking point to ask questions when they don’t understand the other’s intent or meaning. “It shows respect when you ask questions,” she says. “It shows you care what the other person thinks.”

Active listening is vital, as is not letting distractions become obstacles when trying to resolve a conflict, Christopher adds. “This is an even bigger challenge [when working] remotely,” she notes. For example, it’s rude and can send a negative signal if you’re on a teleconference and regularly checking your cell phone in a way that your colleagues can see all too clearly.

Author: Michael Causey