Two of the Dragons get into a spat on tonight’s episode of Dragons’ Den. Jim, the loveable former RCMP officer turned Boston Pizza baron, becomes royally ticked at Arlene, the marketing maven from Calgary, when she cuts him off before he’s had a chance to say whether he’s in or out of a deal.

Jim is a pretty easy-going guy most of the time, but you can see in this situation he is steamed.

Conflict is a completely natural part of life — it can happen anywhere and anytime, at work or at home — or at the grocery store check-out. How people handle conflict varies widely, but it’s often a sign of their character, and frankly, their mental health.

The Dragons are clearly not co-workers — but none of them is the boss either. And power plays a major role in how we handle workplace conflict. You have to handle a dispute with your supervisor or your subordinate in a different way than someone who is your equal.

When I was running Venture, the CBC business show that retired from the airwaves in 2007, occasionally a team member came to me to complain about a colleague. I almost always asked if they had expressed their concerns to the person in question. It’s better if peers resolve the issue themselves — when possible — instead of ‘tattling’ to the boss.

However it gets worked out — with the boss’ help, or by the individuals involved — the important thing is that it gets worked out. Conflict that isn’t addressed can turn toxic. Anger, anxiety, and lost productivity can result.

Experts say the ingredients to resolving a conflict are respect, a willingness to consider other viewpoints, and to value the legitimate needs of everyone involved.

Unfortunately there are immature adults around who just aren’t willing to co-operate. But I think most people do want to do a good job, and feel comfortable in the workplace. If it’s possible to tap into those positive instincts, a solution is more likely.

We don’t often get to choose our colleagues — others choose them for us. The Dragons didn’t choose each other — the production team made those selections. And frankly a bit of conflict makes for good TV!

It’s revealing to watch how Jim and Arlene handle their conflict. Does Arlene allow Jim to participate in the deal-making? Can Jim get over his pique to play? Check it out tonight.

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