Are you the non-confrontational type?

Most of us are inherently afraid of conflict. We have been groomed to feel this way since childhood when we were told to “play nice” and “not upset the other little boys and girls.” And honestly, who likes the negative experience of conflict? Most of us would rather run a mile barefoot in a snowstorm than have to face a confrontation. 


But if we approach conflict from a different perspective, you’d see that all conflict is not negative, scary or confrontational. Here’s how to look at conflict differently:


Productive conflict – is there such a thing?

Yes, and it’s an awesome skill to learn! Productive conflict is the result of an open and authentic discussion about an issue (not a person or an opinion) with the goal of coming to a collaborative and results-driven outcome.  Of course, in order to have this type of dialogue, it is crucial there is no fear of personal judgment or attacks, and participants must stay issue-focused. There are several ways an organization or a department can achieve productive conflict solutions:

  • Bring in an outside perspective to guide the process. Trust is key, and an outside facilitator can help guide a team to achieve healthy results.
  • New leadership can bring about a drastic communications change and restore trust in managers and team players by building renewed trust and accountability within a solutions-driven framework.
  • When we individually change our perspective and truly understand that everyone is not focused on a “win or lose” solution, we will become better listeners, and, ultimately more skilled at dealing with conflict in a productive manner. And trust – which is key – is built along the way.


Can we reframe conflict by renaming it?

Maybe if we look at conflict as a “collaborative discussion” or a “lively debate” rather than an uncomfortable personal attack or conflict, we could be in the proverbial end zone and scoring in the productive conflict arena. But if we approach conflict as an attack on our character or intellect, we will be hesitant to introduce any productive thoughts or ideas in a group setting for fear of judgment. When we build a common language – a language that is understood and approved by all involved, in a safe and non-judging environment – the entire team benefits by taking the focus off of the person while making the topic issues- and results-driven. Simply said: it’s way more fun to work on teams with people who respect differing opinions and thoughts by using the tools of collaborative and productive conflict!


Listen closely – you might learn a thing or two

When you’re focusing on your own opinions and thoughts, it’s hard to hear other people’s points of view. It sounds elementary, but our ears are often a way more effective device than our mouths! When the concepts of “productive conflict” or “collaborative discussion” are introduced, people are often able to look at the situation from the other person’s perspective and realize they forgot to listen as they were too busy formulating their own opinions and thoughts. Truly opening our ears to listen make us more receptive to others thoughts while creating an environment where diverse ideas are welcomed.


How does conflict impact the bottom line?

Conflict reduces productivity, creates turnover and negative employees while affecting an already complex customer-client experience. In other words, a company cannot afford unhappy, negative and conflict-ridden employees. There’s a real value proposition in introducing the concept of productive conflict when we change the emphasis from “avoiding conflict” to “welcoming an authentic and respectful dialogue.”


Looking for resources?

There are several resources out there for anyone looking for help in building a healthy way to grow a team through “positive conflict” and “collaborative discussion.” PPStrat is an authorized partner of The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive TeamTM and we use this assessment-based learning experience to help organizations reveal what it takes to build an effective team where members support one another’s ideas and ways of thinking.  


PPStrat is also an authorized partner of Everything DISC Workplace® where assessments play a fundamental role in understanding how different personalities shape the communications pattern of an organization. Pre-work, facilitation and online follow-up create a personalized learning environment where participants learn to understand and appreciate the different communications styles of the people they work with, resulting in productive and effective working relationships.


Please contact us at PPStrat if you would like more information on how to effectively deal with conflict while building a positive environment for all team members.

About the Author

Vice President, People and Performance Strategies

Curt brings a real-world perspective that resonates with clients to motivate and drive better performance and produce results. The passion, energy, and unparalleled service that he models when working with clients result in tangible actions that lead to measurable improvements in performance. Curt has worked with PPStrat since 2011 and he plays a key role in developing and implementing performance-improvement projects. His background allows him to help drive strategic change in a way that motivates the front-line employee.

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