In short answer: no.
Conflict in healthy doses can be extremely beneficial in the workplace. Note the keyword: healthy.
Colleagues bickering or engaging in an all-out screaming match is not healthy conflict and will not benefit your organization. Occasional disagreement followed by brainstorming of all parties to come up with a better solution is great, healthy conflict.
Healthy conflict can:
- Align your team across common goals
- Invite idea-sharing and brainstorming
- Come up with better solutions
- Improve communication and interpersonal relationships
- Make all employees feel their opinion is valued and important
- Eliminate fear of making mistakes
Here are seven ways to encourage healthy workplace conflict.
1. Hire assertive people.
Hire individuals who aren’t afraid to assert their opinions, debate and solve problems. Probe candidates with questions about situations in the past where they have dealt with conflict had a conflicting opinion or problem-solved in a team setting.
Be wary of candidates with “people-pleasing” tendencies, as they will be the first to shy away from healthy conflict.
2. Be on the lookout for negativity.
Notice if tensions are arising beyond a reasonable level. Notice if team members are “cliquing up,” alienating one or a group of employees, criticizing or doing other things to disrupt the peace. These are all examples of negative conflict and will lead to segregation rather than unity.
3. Recognize the “nay-sayers.”
When a team member steps up to offer a dissenting opinion or idea, thank them publicly. Doing so will set the precedent that disagreement is not only allowed, but also encouraged.
Make it clear while you respect their courage, it is expected they will adhere to the eventual decision made by the team.
4. Encourage opinions supported by facts/data.
Set the expectation that disparate opinions are allowed, but must be reinforced by facts or data, rather than just raw emotion.
Conflict will not be tolerated if it’s based on personal vendettas or grudges held against an idea, person or initiative.
5. Provide training on best practices.
Develop a framework for how conflicts will be addressed and solved, then equip your team with the necessary skills.
Some team members may avoid voicing their opinions because they don’t know how to go about it appropriately. Eliminating this barrier and setting up a protocol will encourage more innovation and better communication.
6. Organize team-building activities.
Team members that feel comfortable around one another will not be conflict-avoidant. When everyone operates under the mutual understanding that you’re all on the same side, hurt feelings or competition are able to take a backseat to true problem-solving.
7. Look at your own actions.
Are you talking the talk, but not walking the walk? In other words, do you say you encourage disagreement but act otherwise when it actually comes up?
You may be unconsciously suppressing disagreement when it goes against your own beliefs or ideas. Take a hard look at your actions, otherwise, consult a trusted co-worker or advisor.
“Conflict” carries an inherent negative connotation, despite it having numerous positive benefits.
How have you seen conflict work well in your organization?
Let us know in the comments below!