When it comes to life at work, most people don’t like conflict. It makes them uncomfortable and increases their stress. If given a choice they will avoid it. What they don’t realize is that by trying to avoid it, they are only missing an opportunity to do something positive about it.
Here’s the organizational leader’s challenge. Help employees understand that the potential pay-offs of conflict are innovation, personal growth and stronger relationships. Prove to them that the rewards outweigh the costs.
One way of doing this is by making your expectations clear and modeling them through your actions. Develop, communicate, and reinforce a set of conflict standards that everyone can follow. Imagine the impact on your organization if these statements were true:
- We address problems immediately and directly.
- We understand others before trying to make them understand us.
- We balance being kind with being right.
Another way to stress the importance of resolving conflicts is to give people the skills they need for doing so. Put all employees through conflict management training upon joining the organization, and supplement with regular follow-up. Employees will feel more comfortable with conflict if they are confident in their ability to deal with it.
If you want an organization that effectively addresses conflict, you’ll need to begin by changing employee attitudes about it.