Conflict in the workplace - is it ever a good thing?

Conflict is understandably seen as a negative thing in the workplace. But if approached correctly, disagreement can give way to opportunities for innovation and stronger working relationships.
HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd
Conflict in the workplace - is it ever a good thing?
Disagreement in the workplace has the power to lead to better decision-making and innovation

The word ‘conflict’ has predominantly negative connotations and may give way to feelings of anxiety and stress. No one enjoys arguing with their partner or family member, and yet conflict is a fundamental part of being human. Not only this, conflict, and its resolution, builds a foundation of strong, resilient relationships. As when recovering from an argument, if handled correctly, those involved may have an even stronger bond than they had previously.

Contrastingly, if, during a conflict, there is poor communication, opportunities for saying nasty things to one another, or an inability to be reasonable and see one another’s point of view, conflict can easily lead to poor outcomes and worse relationships than you originally started with. This suggests that it’s the way you handle these moments of adversity, as opposed to the adversity itself, that determines whether it can be a good or bad thing in your organisation.

It’s how you handle conflict

Conflict resolution is occasionally required of managers, but few leaders know how to effectively resolve disputes between colleagues when they arise.

It’s important for managers to realise that conflict is often unavoidable and sometimes necessary for their team to become even better than they previously were. Research shows that conflict has the potential to lead to better solutions, more creativity, and heightened levels of trust among colleagues.

It is now possible that workforces have five generations in them, creating fertile ground for disagreement. More established colleagues can clash with a younger generation. But leaders have an opportunity to be at the forefront of combating potential division, implementing effective ways to manage conflict

Gemma Collins | Performance and Development Director at Grayce

This type of dispute doesn’t only have to consist of two colleagues having friction – conflict can appear as pressure from senior leadership teams, disagreement over how tasks should be carried out, different styles of working, or creative differences between yourself and another manager.

According to a study from the Myers-Briggs Company, managers spend over four hours a week dealing with conflict. And yet, many find it difficult to cultivate an environment of positive conflict, where opposing ideas can exist under the same roof.

What’s good about conflict?

As mentioned previously, conflict can lead to stronger workplace relationships, but there are a host of other benefits in having a level of friction at work.

Conflict allows space to acknowledge a diversity in thinking within your organisation. If you’re a firm that champions diversity, you need to be aware of the probability that people are going to disagree. Particularly if you’re a company with thousands of employees, some of which may be from different cultures and countries, being able to facilitate open communication about differing perspectives is a crucial tool to equip your managers with.

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