Everybody loves a good argument.
Or do they?
For every person that avoids an argument at home, three times as many avoid it at work.
What makes relationships in the office different to the ones at home?
Are the dynamics different?
Do you play a different role with your manager than, say, your partner?
What is it about behaviour that changes once we get within the four walls of the building we work in?
Perhaps there’s less at stake.
Your colleagues won’t be in your life for decades, but your family will.
And if colleagues are in your life for decades, it’s likely they’ve become friends, and crossed the relationship threshold.
Perhaps there’s more to lose when you argue at home. At least in the office, you have the final resort of HR and the law if things get too sticky.
But at home? You’d rather not get to the point where authorities are involved.
And for all the people that bite their tongue, rather than spit out a smart retort when a colleague says something critical, how much more productive would the workplace be if they were encouraged to argue?
You read that correctly.
What if you were encouraged to experience conflict at work?
Now, I don’t mean lifting the photocopier above your head and throwing it in the direction of your nemesis.
That’s far too aggressive. Avoid that.
I mean: Every opinion is heard. No matter how much it opposes what everyone else thinks. No boundaries or censorship. The floor’s open.
There’s also no room for insults or unfair remarks. Not when you have intelligent people around the table.
But there is room for non-judgemental, free thinking.
How different would your meetings and projects be if you encouraged healthy conflict?
Where Sales and Operations could voice their thoughts on a process change without having to do so over coffee with people who agree with, and reaffirm, every word they say?
What if a healthy discussion was facilitated between them? They may never agree on everything, but the very fact each side feels heard by the other is a step forward.
And it’s far healthier to acknowledge differences with people face-to-face, than behind closed doors without those people there.
It’ll happen anyway. As a leader, you choose how it happens.
That’s the thing with conflict: You can either embrace it, or be led by it.
You can bring it to the fore and handle it with poise, or leave it to simmer and rot your organisation from the inside out.
To give you practical tools to encourage healthy conflict in the office, have a listen to the Masks Off interview with Lianne Davey (author of You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done).
Together with my co-host Olivier Larvor, we explored:
- How you can create healthy conflict in the team for growth (that isn’t hurtful or encourages defensiveness)
- What the business purpose of conflict is and to use it to make teams work more effectively
- A script to give feedback without creating ‘unhealthy’ conflict (i.e – they either yell or cry)
Here’s the link to the interview again.
What to do now?
Enter your email address below to get weekly updates on proven strategies to motivate your team, navigating sensitive topics and delegate with confidence