Positive Conflict in the Workplace
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 of thinking can occur. Without conflict, you have “groupthink,” which discourages innovation.
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 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 and interpersonal communication skills. The benefit is your employees’ comfortability in situations where conflict arises. Training can also reduce the likelihood of conflict. If you detect that tension and negative conflict are effecting your workplace harmony, conflict resolution management and meetings can combat the negative impact it can have on your team.