How Conflict Can Be Productive

So many of us shy away from conflict, especially when it comes to work related issues with colleagues, and most reasons why are valid and fair. Let’s face it, conflict can be ugly. It takes a change of perception and a bit of strategy, but conflict can also be a catalyst for positive change and growth for both individuals and their organisation. 

Tension between employees is almost unavoidable and it is the lack of conflict that creates more tension. By holding in your frustration, you allow the negative thoughts and feelings to remain, which can ultimately boil over to cause an even bigger problem. Conflict actually gives room for two people to work things out by hearing and understanding both sides. Without conflict, one may never even know there is an issue that needs resolving. As Mahatma Gandi once said, “peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it.” He couldn’t have said it any better. 

Collaboration is needed for a team to be healthy, and you for sure can’t collaborate in silence. Conflict raises questions, opens minds, builds relationships, and encourages new ideas, which is everything that collaboration does. Obviously, a conflict should never be approached with verbal or emotional abuse – it should be professional, calm, and productive. Here are some strategies to turn conflict into productive means for improvement and growth…

Train your staff

Build a culture that fights fear and encourages speaking up as soon as an issue arrives so it can be resolved easily. If they believe arguing can be healthy, they’ll feel more comfortable opening up.

Build respect

At the end of the day, a conflict can’t be productive if you don’t respect the person you are arguing with. Trust that everyone in the organisation is trying to do the right thing and means well. And simply treat everyone how you would want to be treated.

Avoid making it personal

It’s so easy to blame someone and to make a conflict personal, but it should really be focused on the task or project at hand. When it gets personal, that’s when it gets messy. 

Be humble

Drop your ego. Productive conflict is not about ‘winning’, but about ‘resolving’. Many people get stuck thinking they are right, but there are always two sides to the story.