Believe it or not, healthy conflict is critical to the success of your business. Just ask Daniel Dana, renowned ‘Conflict Doctor’ and president of Dana Mediation Institute. He defines workplace conflict as follows:
A condition between two people in which at least one feels angry, resentful, hostile, etc., toward the other…and which leads to disruption of effective work and morale in the workplace.
Keep in mind the difference between conflict and disagreement. While all conflicts are disagreements, not all disagreements are conflicts. People can ‘agree to disagree’ calmly – or even passionately – and still make progress. This is what we call healthy conflict.
If a disagreement involves strong emotions and disrupts productivity, we call this an unhealthy conflict. We often encounter situations where team members are angry or resentful about commitments and accountability to each other. Until they identify the conflict and its causes, the anger will hang around like an unwanted guest, disrupting workplace business and damaging morale.
Effective leadership teams learn to address conflicts by following specific steps. These steps allow all parties to be heard and enable them to find a solution that works best for the company.
Here are five things to keep in mind about conflict:
- You don’t need two people for a conflict. Often we think of a conflict as something between two people. But, sometimes one person’s dissatisfaction is sufficient to create a conflict because it disrupts the relationship.
- Conflicts are emotional. When we encounter workplace conflicts, we often find anger, resentment, and hostility in the room. The key is to remember that every conflict has an emotional component.
- Unhealthy conflict disrupts business and morale. When disagreements involve strong emotions and disrupt productivity and momentum, you have an unhealthy conflict. Unhealthy conflicts can result in personal attacks. Such conflicts can profoundly affect working relationships and, ultimately, a company’s bottom line.
- Healthy conflict can solve problems. Healthy conflict can help teams reach new performance levels. When we tackle issues head-on with open communication, we can have an honest – even heated – discussion about our feelings, and possible compromises and solutions. This is a good thing!
- Innovation is born from healthy conflict. Many new and innovative ideas have come from the spirited discussions initiated by healthy conflicts. When people work in an environment that encourages open communication and discussion, their creative juices tend to flow. Healthy conflict resolution breeds a healthy – and successful – business environment.
What matters most is finding resolutions to conflicts. The sign of a healthy conflict and healthy organization is a thriving workplace where creativity blooms and people turn their creative energy into productivity.