Conflict Is Good For You

Conflict ManagementThe ability to work well with other people has long been recognised as fundamental to the success of a team. Good teamwork produces a synergy which, in turn, leads to greater creativity and more innovation as well as improved productivity from the team members.

One of the characteristics of an effective team is that the team members support one another – and the majority of workers (61% in surveys) site this mutual support as one of the things they enjoy most about working in a team.

However, working well with your colleagues does not mean that you must leave your feelings and your opinions at the office door. Placation and harmony are very different things. If you simply placate people by agreeing with all their ideas, then the overall results of the team will not be as good.

The challenge is that people dislike possible conflict, and so tend to do everything they can to avoid it. Surveys repeatedly show that over a third (34%) of workers dislike “arguments” with their colleague. They therefore fail to recognise that constructive disagreement is healthy.

Open differences of opinion between team members gives people the opportunity to think differently and more creatively. It enables the best ideas to emerge and the bad ideas to be identified and avoided.

Because being able to express different, possibly contentious, views is so beneficial, managers and supervisors need to find ways to encourage their team members to bring their full self (feelings and opinions) to work.

Your team needs to be encouraged to deviate from conventional thinking, to challenge peoples’ assumptions, and to disagree. When they can do this then the creative energy in the team really starts to flow.

Because everyone’s views matter managers and supervisors must work hard to create “safe spaces” for their team members to share their ideas and to disagree with one another, regardless of individual status or hierarchy.

There are many ways “safe space” can be created, but here are just three ideas for you to try:

1. Ensure good meeting practice

A well run meeting provides a space where everyone has the opportunity to have their say, no matter what role or level they are.

Ensure people in meetings listen to one another and take turns speaking. Encourage people to build on ideas, and make sure people with different ideas, or who disagree, are not “squashed”.

2. Nominate a “Devil’s Advocate”

One way to make raising disagreements safe within a team is to formalise it. The manger or supervisor can nominate a different person to act as “Devil’s Advocate” when an idea comes up in a meeting. This person doesn’t have to actually disagree with the idea, but is tasked with questioning the idea to uncover possible issues that otherwise could remain hidden.

3. Clear roles & responsibilities

When people understand exactly what their role and responsibilities are in the team, they have a clear sense of purpose. This makes them more confident - and when someone feels confident in what their position is within the team then they are far more likely to speak up and share their views and opinions when these differ from their colleagues’ views.

If you want to learn more on how to encourage your team to work collaboratively and be able to constructively disagree with one another, then our management courses can help.