How does workplace conflict benefit teams, innovation and the bottom line?

People & Culture

It’s one of those easier said than done ideologies, but taking steps toward embracing healthy, resolute workplace conflict has been proven to create empowered, long-term employees, inspire innovation and improve year end profits.

At this point, you’re either grinning and nodding your head with experience, or gritting your teeth and curious about how to adopt an appreciation for healthy workplace conflict. Read on for three practical steps for learning to love the discomfort of conflict.

1. Move past the surface

In order to grow, change must be embraced.

Consider LEGO. To create better results you either need to start fresh, or build upon the existing. Conflict’s not much different. Encourage employees to dig into issues by pushing past the surface. Remove ego. Set aside personal bias. In order to rise above ego it takes vulnerability and confidence, and comes with much practice. Begin with the end in mind when initiating conflict for organization betterment.

Understand that as a leader, you’ll need to walk the talk on this one by welcoming the opportunity to challenge your colleagues and employees in order to innovate and grow. And remember, it’s okay to be neither right nor wrong-the outcome is always about the greater good of the business.

2. Create respectful ground rules

These rules are pivotal in creating productive conflict in the workplace and should become part of any company’s foundation. The ground rules should permit healthy, respectful conflict with a shared goal of organizational improvement. When creating rules remember to always ask and never assume and that individuals have varying motivations. The ground rules should act as a guide when conversations get tense and should allow for each person to express their thoughts without prejudice.

3. Know it might get emotional

Even once you’ve removed ego and personal bias and with respectful ground rules in place, emotion often comes into play during conflict. Expect that the person you’re working with may get emotional and be okay with that. Give in to the moment. State you know this uncomfortable for both parties involved. Or that you can feel yourself getting defensive and you need a minute to move past that. Understand that platitudes give everyone a sense of comfort.

Recognizing the importance and value of healthy workplace conflict is the first step. The second? Employing tips one through three to shift the organization in the direction of purposeful and respectful disagreeance. With agreement for how conflict is managed, people are more willing to open up and share ideas without fear of being shamed or criticized, thus leading to higher performing more innovative teams.

As Brene Brown so eloquently put it, “vulnerability is the birth place of innovation and creativity.” Accept and welcome workplace conflict for its necessity and for its value with increasing innovation and the bottom line.

Interested in learning more? Let us know and follow Incrementa on LinkedIn.

Shannon Pearson


Shannon Pearson is a champion of culture and engagement at incrementa (un)consulting. She helps create high performance teams by connecting people to the organization’s DNA: it’s core values and purpose. Leveraging proven methodologies, she increases engagement and connection while reducing conflict.

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