Conflict, or having a difference in opinion, is considered undesirable. Yet, it is an inevitable outcome of working with a group of people. No two people are the same and such diversity can set the ground for conflicts. However, if handled well, conflict can be a good thing, says Robert Ferguson, co-author of Making Conflict Work: Harnessing the Power of Disagreement. “The clash of ideas, the claims, interests and preferences can be used as a positive force,” says Ferguson. “It can lead to creative and innovative problem-solving. Instead of me against you, it becomes us against a problem.”
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Collaborative or constructive conflict is the key here. The idea is to bring together the different ideas that are leading to a conflict and put them together to find a solution for the larger problem at hand. “The most important thing,” says Piera Palazzolo, Senior Vice President, Dale Carnegie Training, “is to remember that conflict isn’t inherently negative. While uncomfortable and disruptive, it could be a sign that employees are motivated, passionate and invested in your business to stand up for their opinions and take a stand. Be professional and empathetic and conflict can turn into a boon.” Conflict can do wonders for an organisation because it inspires change and encourages open-mindedness. Here’s why you need to embrace conflict to drive your business to success:
It can be a sign of cooperation
According to Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman, authors of Six Simple Rules: How To Manage Complexity Without Getting Complicated, conflict is only a sign of healthy competition and cooperation among employees. “Cooperation matters as it is a necessary condition for effective teamwork,” the book says. “One of the rewards of conflict is that people are happier.” To explain this theory of theirs, the writers say that a conflict-free workspace is boring and frustrated place to be in. However, this doesn’t mean you should pit your employees against each other. You have to ensure conflict is handled productively and constructively so that it benefits all involved and furthers greater business goals, says Palazzalo.
It raises questions
When there are differences in opinion about a particular problem, you get to see what’s wrong with both sides of an argument. Conflict raises pertinent questions about the problem and finds out the loopholes in the offered solutions. This may lead to a joint innovative solution that will be for the larger good of the organisation. According to the Global Human Capital Report, 76 percent of those interviewed have seen a conflict lead to something positive and one in ten said that conflict resulted in the birth of a major innovation at work. Without conflict, there is no disruption and nothing changes. Status quo will change and there will be growth or progress only with disruption.
Conflict helps those involved see a problem from various viewpoints and get a different perspective on it. This helps them adapt to the change that comes their way. Their mindsets change and they become more flexible in their thought process. According to a survey conducted by business research agency CPP on conflict management four out of ten (41 percent) of those interviewed found that it led to a better understanding of other people, while a third (33 percent) experienced improved working relationships, and three out of ten (29 percent) even found that conflict led to a better solution to some problem or challenge.
Conflicts demand solutions and negotiations. In an effort to arrive at a resolution, team members have to work together and spend time taking steps towards it. Constructive conflict management leads to better and clear communication and it motivates team members to work for the company’s goals, keeping their differences aside. It has been proven that employees who are motivated and engaged are likely to be more productive than those who are not.
In life, it is rarely that change comes about without an effort and sometimes even pain. Although it might seem unpleasant at first, conflicts lead to a horde of things that drive organisations to success. This is why intelligent entrepreneurs do not frown at conflicts and instead embrace it and manage it smartly.