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The two-day workshop, which integrated Core Strengths’ tools and approach to managing conflict, resulted in the newly combined VA team rescinding its legal grievance estimated to cost $340,000. Averting the claim yielded a 6,841% ROI from the training, but the impact didn’t end there; the now productive team is equipped to prevent and manage future conflicts and enjoy greater job satisfaction.


The key to the success of the SDI training rested in its ability to depersonalize conflict. The infighting that had plagued the department could now be discussed in a safe, objective way that wouldn’t be taken personally.

VA Participants

The Challenge

The Veterans Administration Healthcare Network, a large healthcare system serving military veterans, faced potential legal proceedings due to a toxic work environment and how a team was treated by its leader. Recent government funding cuts had forced the downsizing and merger of the billing and coding offices from two different Veterans Administration Medical Centers. Several staff members from both offices lost their jobs and those that were left standing were being forced to work in close quarters with many new people. The result was a toxic combination of strained relationships, conflict and culture-shock. The team had essentially stopped work and was considering to file a grievance. Prior to taking legal action, however, the team agreed to a mediation session to help explore the issue fully in the hope of finding a resolution short of going to court.

The Core Strengths Answer

The Veterans Administration has a long and successful track record of using the Strengths Deployment Inventory (SDI) as part of its training programs for both union leaders and upper level management. When the VA came to Core Strengths with this specific problem to address, the team knew it could be solved. The solution was the creation of a seven and one-half hour session, administered over two days, that would tackle the issues plaguing the newly combined office, using the SDI assessment as the foundation for the mediation. The results helped the team better understand the unique drive of its members and enabled robust, challenging conversations throughout the day to help find a productive path forward.

The key to success of the training rested in its ability to depersonalize conflict. By uncovering how each person reacted to conflict, the workshop allowed people to gain insight and a set of tools to understand behavior they had previously taken personally.

Knowledge of their colleagues’ intrinsic motives allowed them to shift their perceptions of one another—and more clearly see the positive intentions behind actions formerly seen as threatening. The infighting that had plagued the department could now be discussed in a safe, objective way that wouldn’t be taken personally.


The two-day session delivered immediate, tangible results to the Veteran’s Administration. By the end of the workshop, the team agreed to rescind the allegations and also allowed VA’s in-house counsel to review them. In doing so, they estimated that the financial cost of the claim, the cost of successfully managing conflict, would have been about $340,000. The cost avoidance resulted in a 6,841% ROI from the intervention.

The course also proved transformative for the team. The room buzzed with comments such as “Now I understand why my teammates act in a certain way that are not intended to be malicious” and “We now have a much better understanding of each other and a set of tools to create productive working relationships.”

About the Company:

Headquartered in Washington D.C., the Veterans Administration (VA) is a federal agency that was formed in 1930 and employs over 377,000 people to run medical facilities all over the nation. The VA offers medical services to eligible veterans as well as family members.

When relationships work, there isn’t a problem that can’t be solved.

Core Strengths is Now Part of Crucial Learning.

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