Transformative Conflict

Conflict will occur in every organization, it’s unavoidable regardless of industry, location, whatever. When people work together some form of conflict will arise, it’s human nature. Now, conflict shouldn’t be portrayed in just a negative light, there are many forms of constructive conflict that enhances or provides developmental opportunities for the parties involved.

Constructive conflict occurs when managers are able to guide discussions that include challenging an individual’s ideas, beliefs, and assumptions; when teams are encouraged to take into consideration new and innovative ideas from their peers; when open and honest communication with others is promoted; and when the free expression of opinions and feelings is encouraged. What can organizations stand to gain from this type of conflict? Can an increase in open and honest communication result in differences being settled amicably? Absolutely! As leaders it falls on us to guide the process so that the conflict becomes a learning tool for those involved. Yes, I am aware this is easier said than done, but it’s not impossible, it will however take time and dedication to achieve.

Conversely, conflict can become destructive when we engage in or allow others to engage in distorting and withholding information, to express hostility and distrust, towards others and create obstacles to impede decisions, or misrepresent issues or positions that falsely influence others. Needless to say, these behaviors will have a detrimental effect on team cohesiveness and will be in and of itself, a barrier to open and honest communication.

So what’s transformative about these forms of conflict? Absolutely nothing! The transformation isn’t the conflict itself, but rather the internal transformation that occurs within the individuals involved in the conflict when they are able to address issues in a positive and effective manner without causing further conflict and without hindrance to achieving organizational goals. Yes, I know some of you who are reading this are saying, is it worth the effort, time and money when a shorter more convenient solution can be found? I can’t answer that for you, only you know what’s truly best for your specific situation, but consider this, although you are able to find a “quicker” solution to the conflicts in your organization, have you addressed the underlying issues at hand? (The development of your people to really know how to use conflict for purposeful reasons…fyi) If not, then your “achievement” can be likened to a pyrrhic victory.

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