• When is Team Conflict a Good Thing?

    Conflict is often viewed negatively by many; thinking it can only cause havoc and disrupt relationships.  The reality is that conflict, when addressed effectively, can actually be a very good thing – as it helps surface the issues, allows for dialogue to explore and understand these issue(s) and, ultimately, bring empathy and clarity around the differing perspectives.  In organizational settings, we should expect conflict to exist.  The reasons for conflict can be anything from a struggle around limited resources, a differing of viewpoints, frustration about goals, competition, lack of trust and more and more, complexity of organizations.

    So, rather than hope conflict won’t occur and turn a blind eye, allow for constructive dialogue to truly explore different perspectives around an issue to deepen understanding and gain resolution.

    Enjoy the following perspectives from our Incrementa team about when conflict is a good thing!

    Chris Eland:  Conflict in a team is a natural part of the teaming process. As psychologist Bruce Tuckman shares there are four stages of teaming:  Forming , Storming. Norming and Performing and well, it’s labeled Storming for a reason. The storming phase involves working through different ideas, questioning and challenging the direction and who the likely leaders are and, most importantly, understanding the personalities in your team.  All of these have the potential to create conflict. The key to reaching that all important performing stage is open-mindedness, exploration of ideas and considering options. The leadership play a fundamental role in making conflict work to an organization’ benefit and, when managed well, rather than stifled it can be an extraordinary thing.

    Robert Murray: The most basic foundation of any team is ‘Trust’ and, without trust between team members, the team will not move forward and become high performing.

    Without trust, a team cannot be its best when faced with high pressure scenarios and they will lack alignment, having a clear plan and confidence in one other. When there is a lack of trust it prevents the team from having healthy conflict.

    When Conflict is not good:  On teams where conflict is hostile and aggressive, it is often the loudest voice that only gets heard.  The Results?  Mediocrity, passive aggressive behaviours, water cooler talk behind the scenes, lack of ownership and, in extreme cases, a toxic culture of blame.  Organizationally this can lead to high churn and low customer value.  Overall… Average performance (At best).

    When conflict is good:  It is how high performing teams discuss options, push boundaries, challenge one another and choose the best direction.  When the leader and its team members possess the emotional security that they ‘could be wrong’ and, that another team member may have a better idea, then they are moving towards high performing.

    Ralph Newbigin: When change is introduced in a team, generally some personnel can immediately see the value, while others may not. Most challenging is where on the surface a team member agrees with the change, but is internally resistant to it and its this resistance that can be contributing to both an internal conflict as well as external conflict within the team. Whether you are the change instigator or the change resistor, it might seem easier to hope that everything will be okay in the end – I call this the “nod & grin” approach. However, what really contributes to helping those through their resistance is allowing it to surface and encouraging dialogue and ultimately, constructive conflict. Often as we resist the change, we are confronted with having to let go of what was comfortable and known and allow for the new.  We witness people taking strong positions, sometimes fighting for their position but, when facilitated well, this paves the path to honest dialogue and over time, acceptance of the change. One way to help the team reach a place of resolution is by encouraging transparency.  Allow for the not so filtered comments as this is a reflection of their pain points.  Ultimately the goal through the constructive conflict is reaching alignment and cooperation after allowing the conflict to occur.



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