I have been doing some thinking about what ingredients go to make for a healthy approach to conflict at work. Conflict can be a fantastic generator of positive change and innovation. If we never disagree with each other on the way forward can there ever actually be a way forward? But in many situations we don’t seem to have the right stuff around to allow us to capitalise on the positive side of conflict.
It seems to me that teams with a positive approach to conflict tend to have:
In themselves and in each other. Self-confidence so that they don’t respond to any challenge as an attack and put the defences up. Confidence in their colleagues so that they are prepared to listen to what’s being said even if they don’t immediately agree. Do we have the skills and attitude in our workplace that makes colleagues feel supported and confident to have their say? Or is our approach encouraging fear and risk aversion?
(Opportunities for genuine) Communication
If there’s no space in the working day for conversation then we end up talking in a series of grunts and half sentences as we pass from one pressing job to another. No chance then to listen and respond but every chance we will react before we’ve understood and close down an important exchange before it has begun. Also, if we are not used to having discussions at work, then whenever we do “have to talk” it can feel unnatural and a bit scary. Making space to talk as part of our routine will bear fruit in many different ways.
What Fairy Godmothers issue as standard to every new-born, curiosity is what makes us learn. If we aren’t interested in “stuff” then our exposure to new experience and new information is going to be limited as is our opportunity to put new knowledge into practice. A lot of words have been written about encouraging innovation in the workplace. Maybe if we encouraged, welcomed and rewarded curiosity then the innovation would just follow right along. In the sphere of conflict, curiosity is what makes us listen and ask follow up questions rather than immediately putting on our ‘”No” face’.
Confidence, Communication and Curiosity – the precursors to healthy conflict? Be great to know what you think.