So how can conflict lead to positive outcomes? Here are five tips for your organisation to become healthier from conflict.
- Conflict can enhance engagement
When people are in conflict, they often are more highly engaged in order to find fodder to win their argument. While this may seem like a negative, increased engagement in the workplace is positive as employees pay more attention and want to have more input. Increased engagement can also lead to enhanced collaboration as the employees in conflict may seek to get colleagues on their side. While a team should not be dragged into conflict, the skills conflict teaches in terms of collaboration and engagement can have a positive effect on the employee as it encourages a sense of belonging; they find others with similar values.
- Conflict can enhance communication skills
Employees in conflict need to learn quickly how to communicate their point in a clear and succinct manner. This is a big positive for business as clear communication skills can actually reduce future conflict such as in instances of misinterpretation and miscommunication. From the perspective of the leader or manager it is crucial that conflict communication is steered by a process to avoid drifting off into drama. Both parties have to come out from conflict with a solution which allows them to keep respect for each other and work towards what has been agreed.
- Conflict teaches compassion and accountability through active listening
With active listening, employees in conflict can hear an opposing perspective to their own teaching them compassion and another way of viewing the world. Clear communicators can articulate their perspective in a way that the listener understands. Once the heat of the moment has died down, conflict also teaches those involved to be accountable for their words and actions. In the cold light of day they can distill their original arguments and be accountable for their words and actions. They can push points they feel strongly about and understand the perspective of the other involved party.
- Conflict teaches us to be open and honest about emotions
In the workplace, it is easy to keep emotions hidden as they may make us feel unprofessional. However, conflict forces emotions to the fore and causes us to answer to and for them. Conflict allows us to be open about how we feel when confronted with a perspective different to our own. We can be open about how we feel regarding a certain point of conflict and share how the other person made us feel. This is a positive for the workplace as it allows employees to connect with one another as humans, not simply coworkers.
- Conflict encourages creative problem solving
When a conflict arises, it needs to be solved. What better way to encourage creative problem solving skills than having to solve a conflict between employees. To effectively solve a problem, listen to the real problem and come up with a solution that will appease both parties whilst still moving the business forward. A real benefit from conflict is that of reviewing engrained practises. For example, if an employee is in conflict with another over objectively assessing a process, the solution may be to either explain why the process is done this way or actively work towards a solution to change the process for a more productive outcome. Either way, if you are looking for change or justifying why things remain the same in business, harness the energy from conflict and drive it towards more beneficial outcomes for the company and company culture.
Conflict can be a positive thing if your workplace follows a productive strategy and learns how to structure conversations around conflict. Harnessing the energy of conflict by using these techniques can achieve amazing results, instead of drifting into drama.
Ilona Vass is the Director and Founder of Dancing With the Dragons. Ilona is a licensed and certified practitioner of PCM and LOD systems, and results coach, and has a Certificate in Human Resources and Organisational Development.