Conflict is an unavoidable part of existence. Inevitably everyone experiences some form of it in work or in life. Conflict can be a drag on people and organizations, effecting both efficiency and effectiveness – or it can lead to breakthroughs and positive transformations. Conflict can most certainly be a positive, if the organization and its members have the skills to address the issues that created it. Let’s explore the constructive or destructive aspects of conflict:
- Inspires open clarification and reassessment of issues
- Encourages consideration of different alternatives
- Allows open communication and participation of both parties
- Builds cohesion of a group as they understand each others view point
- Damages morale
- Organizational performance
- Leads to harmful behavior of bullying, harassment and discrimination
- Harms cohesion of a group; instead broods polarization
It should be clear that a binary perception of conflict misses the mark. Instead, we should see conflict as an opportunity but this can only be the case if we have an organization and culture that fosters the positive resolution of conflict.
Organizational culture can be a deciding factor in whether conflict can be a positive or negative for an organization. Only if an organization creates a culture presupposes several factors, can conflicts be positively resolved. Some of the building blocks of that positive organizational culture are:
Fostering and training employees at all levels in communications fundamentals allows them to shine when it comes to positively resolving conflicts. If staff, from CEO to the most Jr staff member, have the ability to communicate their ideas with respect – outcomes can be outstandingly positive. Communication skills are a fundamental skill that drive success in life and work. Leaders who can actively listen, respectfully learn and understand are better at resolving conflicts.
Emotional intelligence is a teachable skill that allows leaders (at all levels) to be better at reading and understanding their world. Conflict especially calls emotional intelligence to bear as it is in the troughs of highly emotional charged moments that we must learn to center ourselves and focus on resolving conflict. Leaders with strong EI skills navigate conflict to resolution more effectively than others lacking this intelligence.
Leadership At All Levels
Hierarchy and leadership aren’t synonymous. True leaders attempt to empower everyone within an organization to be their best. This casts aside the antiquated notion that position alone gives one an inherent importance over others in addressing conflict. When it comes conflict in the context of asymmetrical working relationships (boss/subordinate), when both parties have an ability to air grievances, explore ideas and question thinking – everyone benefits. Leaders who empower and lay the groundwork for conflict resolution produce powerful results.
Unavoidable & Desirable
Conflict should be looked at as an opportunity that is both unavoidable and desirable. This is only the case if organizations build a culture and develop the skills that lay the groundwork for its resolution. Without this, it is a recipe for discord, dysfunction, and failure. These exact undue pain in organizations team dynamics, deeply effect morale and cause economic harm. Without the fundamental skills of a positive culture that fosters & trains communication skills, emotional intelligence and leadership at all levels – organizations will see real world drains on their potential.
Fortunately, this is avoidable if we lay the groundwork in our organizations to see conflict in its true light. If we embrace the skills, conflict can be a powerful transformational tool. If you found this post useful, join our monthly newsletter for tips like this in your inbox. What are your experiences with conflict in your organization? Please do a comment or question below.