Is Workplace Conflict a Challenge or Opportunity?
By Maria Arcocha White | August 15, 2013
Bumps in the road are called “conflicts,” and they occur whenever we have a disagreement, are faced with difficult decisions, or have to make tough choices where we don’t all agree on the priorities for the business. Conflict is not always easy, but it is inevitable, and it can be a source of energy, innovation, creativity, and opportunity development. It all depends on how you look at it.
Roy Z-M Blitzer is quoted saying this:
“The only person who likes change is a wet baby.”
Now why is this?
Why is it that most of us humans resist change as much as we can? Personally, I think that it is due to the fear of the unknown. I think that ‘the devil we know’ is better than the one we do not, even when the unknown may be the best surprise we could ever imagine.
If change is “the devil we do not know,” then conflict is the vehicle that gets us from that ‘devil’, and what we think we know, to the future state. According to Thomas Crum:
“Nature uses conflict as its’ primary motivator for change, creating beautiful beaches, canyons, mountains, and pearls.” He goes on to say “Conflict is natural; neither positive nor negative, it just is. It’s not whether you have conflict in your life. It’s what you do with that conflict that makes a difference.”
Conflict doesn’t go away or disappear. It can be repressed, ignored, or discounted. But, as someone who works with differences for a living, I can tell you that time does not heal the rift that unresolved conflict creates in a relationship. In fact, over time, unresolved conflicts fester and grow, eventually becoming so large and unhealthy that they can threaten the foundation of even the strongest relationship.
Let’s discuss some ways to approach conflict that will help you navigate it smoothly and use it to create even stronger relationships!
- Know what you really value. It will be over these important things that you will want to express conflict. All the other stuff is not worth it.
- Pick your battles and save your strength. Not all battles are yours to fight, so spend your energy on important conflicts. And remember, just because someone else wants to fight doesn’t mean you have to.
- Face your fear and stand your ground. Don’t ever walk away from a conflict when it involves what you value.
- Conflict is not a contest to be won. Jerry Jampolsky says “Would you rather be right or happy?” This one is an easy one for me. Happy wins every time!
- Listen; really listen, during time of conflict. In my experience, most conflicts are really misunderstandings. If you hang in there and listen, you will most likely find common ground instead of fighting words.
- Focus on behavior not on motives or intentions. If you can see it, you can name it, and you have half a chance of being listened to. Therefore, as much as possible, keep conflicts focused on what is tangible.
- Nothing new was ever created without conflict. Think about it, it is a conflict in needs vs. haves that creates a new product. A conflict in thought generates a new idea. A conflict between people creates an innovative idea. Now what was it about conflict you didn’t like?
- People don’t care what you know, until they know that you care. Yes, I know I have already shared this with you, but it is especially important to remember this in times of conflict. As long as people know you care, they will hang in there through the conflict to come out on the other side of it. So, especially in times of conflict, let your partner know you care.
That’s it. Now it is your turn to face your fear and handle conflict that has been brewing. Whatever it is, if you are still carrying it with you, then it is time to let it go!