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Meaningful conflict at workplace is a win-win strategy

14 May 2012 07:32 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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There are all sorts of reasons why people don’t stand up for their beliefs and bring important differences to the table. Conflict is usually uncomfortable. Many people don’t know how to participate in a meeting and manage conflict in a positive way. In a poorly practiced conflict, people sometimes get hurt. They become defensive because they feel under attack personally.
You have to work with certain people every day, so you don’t want to harm these ongoing relationships.
Conflict avoidance is most frequently the topic when conflict in organisations is discussed. Conflict resolution - as quickly as possible - is the second most frequent topic. I believe this is bad news because meaningful conflict is a cornerstone in healthy, successful organisations. Conflict is necessary for effective problem solving and for effective interpersonal relationships.
Does this statement sound unusual to you?  It may, if you are one of those people who tries to avoid conflict in your daily work life. You see only the negative results of conflict. Especially as a manager or supervisor, you may even find that you spend precious time mediating disputes between coworkers.
You have got it mixed up
and I will tell you why.
I am not referring to petty conflicts like who gets the better chair or who got the stapler without returning it. These conflicts are for kids. What I am referring to is another kind of conflict called ‘meaningful conflicts’.

Why healthy?
Let me tell you why meaningful conflict is healthy and important.
  • Meaningful conflicts afford you with the means to recognize, reward and thank people who are willing to take a stand and support their position. Now you see potential leaders in your organisation. The same people who are willing to make a stand for their beliefs are the same people who carry the passion to do what they need to do.
     
  • Meaningful conflicts bring out fresh ideas from everyone that would be good for business. When people can disagree with each other and lobby for different ideas, your organisation is healthier. Disagreements often result in a more thorough study of options and better decisions and direction. But what you do not want to happen is for everyone in the team to bend the knees and bow to the wishes of a strong personality who tends to dominate the meetings.
     
  • Meaningful conflicts are a reflection of a healthy work environment. You can be sure that differences of opinion are encouraged and this is good for business. People involved in this process show more professionalism and they can now explore different approaches towards achieving the same-shared goals. If organisational goals are aligned and all employees are moving in the same direction, meaningful work conflict about how to get there is respected.
     
  • Meaningful conflicts in the work place sharpen your leader’s maturity and sense of professionalism. Especially when they have learned that conflicts can take place inside the boardroom or the meeting rooms and may even be encouraged but once they get out of the room they would all professionally agree to support the final decision to reach their shared goals.
Now here is the key. If you are the manager and you experience little disagreement from members, then you need to examine your own actions. Maybe you are sending signals that you do not welcome dissention. This will not be good for you and your organisation. Always remember that if you happen to be right all the time, then there is something wrong with you.
Workplace conflict is never easy but meaningful conflict is often necessary if you want to stick up for your rights at work. Whether the conflict is over shared credit, irritating coworker habits and approaches, or to keep a project on track, sometimes you need to hold a confrontation with a team member. The good news is that while confrontation is almost never your first choice, you can become better and more comfortable with necessary conflict.

A few tips
Here are some tips that will help managers develop a meaningful workplace conflict that would help drive the team to strive and perform better at work.
  • Create healthy workplace
The working environment has a lot to do with the creation of a meaningful conflict atmosphere. One way to do this is by making a workplace that is open for healthy debate on different issues and ideas. Encouraging the sharing of different opinions and to speak up can be a way to develop meaningful workplace conflict.
  • Provide the appropriate training
Some employees may not be able to take meaningful conflict well because they don’t seem to know how to stand for their own opinions and beliefs comfortably. This is why employees may need to undergo training on how they will be able to develop the skill they will need to make them better equipped at practicing meaningful conflict at the workplace.
  • Reward and recognize meaningful conflict
In order to encourage meaningful workplace conflict, managers and team leaders should also be able to recognize and reward employees who take part in such exercises that may have resulted in pushing the company forward. A good way to do this is by providing compensation for employees based on the success of the group of the organisation as a whole aside from individual recognition and rewards.
  • Determining unhealthy conflict
Managers and leaders in an organisation should also be able to observe and determine whether certain conflicts at the workplace may be getting out of hand. Being open to debate and disagreements can also be a risk that may instill dissension and chaos within working employees. That is why manager should also have good observation skills to gauge whether certain workplace conflicts may already be getting out of hand and may not be going as positively as expected.

Group norm
Create a group norm that conflict around concepts and direction is anticipated and that personal assaults won’t be accepted. Any group that all comes together regularly to lead a group or department, solve a problem, or to improve or develop a method would gain from group norms. These are the relationship guidelines or rules team members agree to follow.
They frequently include the requirement that all members will talk honestly, that all opinions are equivalent, and that each person will get involved. These recommendations also build the expectation that individual attacks are not tolerated whereas healthy debate about tips and options is urged.
The art of meaningful conflict shows why conflict isn’t something we should fear at all, but is instead something we should embrace and use to our advantage. Meaningful conflict is the difference between people just doing things and people getting things done. Often, when we think of conflict, we think of fight and anger. But ‘meaningful’ conflict is different; it’s a structured, systematic approach to decreasing conflict and increasing accountability in the workplace. Unlike other business improvement methodologies, it doesn’t cost you money and you can implement it today. Meaningful conflict works because it’s simple.

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