Conflict in the Workplace Part 1:  Good OR Bad?

b loehr - conflict 2Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. Who hasn’t had some misunderstanding, disagreement, or clash with a co-worker or supervisor? Few companies can truthfully claim a totally conflict-free environment, and that’s why leadership must be proactive about recognizing conflict and implementing resolution techniques.

Unaddressed discord can impact productivity—negatively of course—and wreak havoc throughout the company. But did you know that a certain level of conflict can be good?

Adopt an attitude that resists the “all conflict is bad” mindset and insist your management team do so as well. Because…

  • A difference of opinion can encourage open-mindedness if both parties are encouraged to express themselves in a safe environment where opinions are respected.
  • The sharing of opposite points of view can generate new understanding in an “I never thought of it like that” way.
  • Questioning a thought, process, or opinion can stimulate out-of-the-box thinking that sparks innovative ideas.
  • An open dialogue that doesn’t run or hide from conflict can bring to light issues that have quietly lurked for years, subtly sabotaging either morale, productivity or both.

Where the status quo reigns, nothing changes. Ever! Conflict doesn’t have to be a hindrance or lead to stagnation. Rather it can be a catalyst for positive change as it represents an opportunity to mold and flesh out notions and views and theories. Imagine the possibilities… Breakthroughs. Exciting concepts. Groundbreaking visions.

If only all conflict could be labeled “good,” but assuming all conflict will have a positive end is wishful thinking. While minor disagreements may work themselves out, you can be sure more major situations will not magically disappear. It’s advisable to discover the squabble in the advertising department—or shipping or accounting—before it erupts into a screaming match and/or a fist fight in the main corridor.

The bigger the organization, the easier it is for disagreements to go undetected. Engage the assistance of your department heads and supervisors to monitor for disturbances that may either:

  1. Quickly escalate into a firestorm or
  2. Simmer at a low, slow burn, spreading a choking smoke.

If the early rumbles often slip past you, enlist the support of an assistant—someone who can easily spot dissension before it becomes toxic.

Not every quarrel needs your time and attention, and deciding when to get involved can be tricky. Next week, in part 2, we’ll explore strategies for discerning the need for intervention and the steps to resolve conflict before it damages the company.

Because B. Loehr Staffing understands the myriad of employment issues which companies face, our Client Resource Center is chock full of helpful links to assist you in finding the answers you need. With over 115 years of experience in the staffing industry, you can trust us to be your comprehensive resource for supplemental staffing and human resources management.

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