Making Conflict Productive

Based on the feedback I’ve had from my previous articles on conflict in the workplace and dealing with difficult people, I’ve learned that this is one of the biggest challenges we face in our daily lives.  And that means that figuring out how to turn conflict from a negative to a positive force can be very beneficial for business leaders.

  1. Recognize that conflict is inevitable. It’s universal.  It can’t always be “resolved,” but it can be productive, constructive and a positive force in your business.
  2. Understand how you typically deal with conflict. Most of us have a pattern that includes at least some destructive behavior.  Examples include:  arguing with a need to win at all costs, withdrawing or caving in to avoid unpleasantness, seeking revenge and plotting sabotage and my personal favorite—passive aggression.
  3. Identify your triggers. What sets you off?  What makes you feel threatened?  What draws you in to a conflict? Reflecting on past conflicts might help to determine patterns.
  4. Reframe the situation. Is there another way to look at it?  How else could you respond? Can you see it from another person’s perspective?  Ask yourself:  what if what I think I see is invalid or untrue?  What might I be missing?
  5. Seek a more productive response. Pause and consider how “your best self” would handle the situation.  What behaviors have you observed in others that you appreciate and that you can emulate? Reflect on a past situation that could have been handled differently.

Following these steps consistently will help you improve the way you handle conflict.  And, as a leader, it’s critical for you to model the behavior you want to see in the rest of your team.

Next time, we will explore some of the team dynamics around conflict, how to identify unhealthy conflict on your team, and what to do about it.  Teams that engage in constructive conflict are more productive and they make better decisions.

In the meantime, let me know your experience with these steps and how they apply in your situation.


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