A lot of our time goes into discussing ways to resolve conflict. Here’s the deal though, not all conflict is bad.
Think of there being two types of conflict, relational conflict – when people don’t like each other, and task conflict – when people disagree about work-related stuff.
There is a lot of research on when and how conflict is good for teams and when it isn’t. Here are some basics about conflict at work and in teams along with techniques to help manage the conflict in your team.
Conflict will always exist
When two or more people share time and space, there will be conflict. The degree to which will vary, but it will exist. Don’t think you have to resolve all conflict so that everyone agrees – that would be bad for business.
The trick is to manage conflict. Make a way for people on your team to disagree in a respectful, open way so that the best outcome for the team is reached.
Relational conflict is bad
People disagree and that’s okay, but when team members fight and argue because they just don’t click or can’t get along – the whole team will suffer and performance will plummet. Put an end to this immediately!
This type of conflict must be resolved – utilize a conflict mediator or assign the members to different teams. This will destroy the effectiveness of your team.
Task conflict can be good
People disagree and that’s okay, especially so when the team is focused on the best way to get the job done. You want your team to contribute new ideas and challenge one another. This can be a great way to achieve synergy.
This is where conflict management comes in. The atmosphere must be right for task conflict to work for instead of against the team. Members must trust each other and be comfortable taking risks. They must believe their team will not do harm to them, even when they disagree. Building safety and trust is essential for managing task conflict – but that’s a topic for another day.