Why Should You Encourage Productive Conflict?

To many people, the word “conflict” is a negative. Thoughts of bad words and hurtful emotions come to mind. The cost of unresolved conflict in organizations is immense. Lost productivity, lost opportunity, or poor choices have contributed to $359 billion in loses nationally.[1] “Unresolved conflict represents the largest REDUCIBLE cost in many businesses, yet remains largely unrecognized.” [2]

This type of conflict seldom results in resolution of an issue, and leaving it unresolved can cost an organization not only tremendous amounts because of nonproductivity, but also leads eventually to employee disengagement, which has another layer of lost costs.

Another option is where teams engage in constructive “discussion” or “debate”.  With the exchange of knowledge, prior experiences and by offering differing analytical opinions, the collective can then arrive at positive decisions and develop solid strategies.

With sufficient conversation, a team of reasonable minds will eventually arrive at a consensus – which does not necessarily mean everyone agrees. The wisdom and prudence of the proposed action will be evident. But without consensus, team members are left feeling unheard, unsupported and isolated. (Do you have team members who “silo” themselves?)  This is where the negative emotions and RE-actions will occur.  All are detrimental to a team that needs to move forward TOGETHER.

While organizations and teams will always be faced with some type of “conflict” – as it’s a necessary part of growth, but it needs to be addressed. Good team leaders will encourage this dialogue and guide the team members to constructive resolutions.

This requires skills in using “Productive Conflict” which is the counter-balance to the “herd mentality”. You have the seen the situation where a very good idea has been presented, and then the synergy of the group takes over. Suddenly, with everyone on board, the herd stampedes towards the sought-after result without sufficient consideration of possible obstacles. It’s usually the most vocal and outgoing team members that will oftentimes dominate the stage when there is dialogue. The more introverted or questioning personalities on the team may fail to speak up because they are intimidated, or in the extreme case – just they don’t care anymore.

The quiet guy in the corner may just have that last bit of information that will totally change the dynamic and perception of a proposed action. His experience, if shared, may reveal that there are one or two critical flaws in the thinking, and thus the plan could be destined to fail. By sharing this last tidbit BEFORE the stampede starts allows for the collective to identify the roadblocks, and take necessary action to prevent or circumvent the speedbump. This is all good for the organization. Prevent the failures from happening.  Won’t even go into examples because we have all seen those.

“Productive Conflict” is solid challenge of thought, based upon facts and true beliefs that are not generated from ill-will or negative emotion – but rather promotes healthy and respectful dialogue. How people engage in this type of debate is different for each person. Some people are contemplative, need more information or data to analyze. Others prefer the vocal debate and utilize their gut instincts. The best leaders will understand the differing needs of each style and guide the discussion in order that all team members have been heard. Without being heard, these team members have a difficult time supporting the ultimate decision (alignment) and often will just nod agreement as to do otherwise seems to them to be futile. This “agreement” is not genuine agreement, and is not enough to carry through any difficulties that may arise. This team member will quickly become “disengaged”.

So, don’t be afraid of conflict – encourage the healthy debate. Solid decisions are always the best!! We are pleased to introduce our newest Everything DiSC(R) PRODUCTIVE CONFLICT Assessment which looks at conflict styles.  It further demonstrates how your fellow colleagues may approach differing opinions and helps team members to find constructive ways to accept and integrate all perceptions, to the betterment of the team and ultimate decisions.  After taking the assessment, research has found that 96% of participants are better able to handle conflict.

Does this sound like your team?  For more information on “PRODUCTIVE CONFLICT” – connect with us at:  info@newleveladvisorsllc.com


Copyright Lynne E. Pope, New Level Advisors –  2017.   All rights reserved.


[1] www.Entreprenuer.com

[2] Controlling the Cost of Conflict, K. Slaikeu & R. Hasson