Leadership, Total Rewards

Positive Conflict in the Workplace

/ May 18, 2023 May 18, 2023

Conflict is often something that we try to avoid. It is often viewed as hostile, frustrating, negative, uncomfortable, and “win or lose” in its outcomes. So what does it mean when conflict is classified as being “positive”?

Positive conflict does not mean that the conflict was good, but rather that the occurrence of that conflict led to something beneficial. Positive conflict is constructive in nature. It produces new ideas, solves continuous problems, provides an opportunity for people and teams to expand their skills, and fosters creativity.

When opposing ideas are explored, a breakthrough in thinking can occur. Without conflict, you have “groupthink,” which discourages innovation.

Below are some of the key advantages of positive conflict in the workplace:

  1. Enhanced Creativity and Innovation: Positive conflict can stimulate creative thinking and foster innovation. When individuals with diverse perspectives and ideas engage in healthy debate and discussion, it can lead to the generation of new and innovative solutions to problems or challenges. Different viewpoints and constructive disagreements can spark creativity and promote out-of-the-box thinking.
  2. Improved Decision-Making: Conflict can facilitate more robust decision-making processes. By encouraging different opinions and encouraging healthy debate, teams can consider a wider range of options and perspectives before making important decisions. This can lead to more well-rounded and informed choices, reducing the potential for groupthink and increasing the likelihood of successful outcomes.
  3. Increased Team Cohesion: Engaging in positive conflict can strengthen relationships and promote teamwork. When conflicts are handled respectfully and constructively, it can help build trust among team members. Openly discussing differing viewpoints and resolving conflicts collaboratively can create a sense of unity, shared purpose, and mutual respect within the team.
  4. Personal and Professional Growth: Positive conflict presents opportunities for individual growth and development. Engaging in constructive disagreements allows employees to challenge their own assumptions, expand their knowledge and skills, and gain a broader understanding of different perspectives. It encourages individuals to step outside their comfort zones, adapt to new ideas, and learn from others’ experiences.
  5. Stronger Relationships: Conflict resolution can lead to stronger interpersonal relationships in the workplace. When conflicts are addressed openly and respectfully, it can enhance communication and understanding between colleagues. Working through disagreements and finding mutually beneficial solutions can build stronger bonds and foster a positive work environment.
  6. Organizational Learning: Positive conflict can contribute to organizational learning and improvement. When conflicts are addressed effectively, organizations can identify underlying issues, areas for improvement, and systemic challenges. It allows for feedback and reflection on processes, policies, and practices, leading to organizational growth and positive change.
  7. Increased Productivity: When conflicts are resolved in a positive and timely manner, it can minimize unproductive tensions and misunderstandings that can hinder workflow. Addressing conflicts head-on and finding resolution helps maintain a focused and productive work environment.

It’s important to note that for conflict to be beneficial, it should be handled constructively and respectfully. Effective conflict management strategies, such as active listening, open communication, empathy, and compromise, should be employed to ensure conflicts do not escalate into destructive or negative situations.

So as a leader, how can you make conflict positive?

  • Promote an integrative approach to managing team conflicts. Attempt to pursue a common goal, rather than individual goals. Openly and honestly communicate with all team members. When conflict is avoided or approached on a win/lose basis, it becomes unhealthy and can cause low morale and increased tension within your teams. As a leader, focus on finding ways and solutions in which all team members “win.”
  • Foster a culture in which differences of opinion are encouraged, placing emphasis on the common goals among your team, employees, and departments. Many times, people place a focus on the differences in opinions, rather than focusing on goals that they have in common. Encourage your team to be inclusive of others and speak up when they disagree or have a different opinion. As a leader, you must be willing to reward and thank those who are willing to take a stand and support their position. Positive conflict and a culture that supports it go hand-in-hand.
  • Training! Provide your employees with opportunities to grow and enhance their problem-solving, conflict resolution, non-defensive communication, interpersonal communication skills, and even wellbeing training. The benefit is your employees’ comfort in situations where conflict arises and working with people who have different styles. Training can also reduce the likelihood of conflict. If you detect that tension and negative conflict are affecting your workplace harmony, conflict resolution management, and meetings can combat the negative impact it can have on your team.

Need help training your staff to positively resolve conflict?

Check out Exude’s Training & Development Programs.  We offer a number of Training and Development courses that help managers and teams practice positive conflict resolution. Popular Training programs include:

  1. Emotional Agility
  2. Employee Relationships & Coworker Relationships that Thrive
  3. Preventing Employee Burnout

Want to learn more about how Exude can help your organization with positive conflict resolution, contact us.


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