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Is Conflict Always A Bad Thing In The Workplace?

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Each time we communicate there is the potential for fallout, misunderstanding and conflict, even when it is not our intention. 

Conflict in the workplace is anything but rare. There is much statistical data out there quoting the cost of conflict in terms of money and the impact on morale and productivity to name but a few. 

You don’t need an expert to tell you ‘Negative Conflict’ in business and the workplace is unproductive and unnecessary. Notice I mention the word ‘negative’ alongside ‘conflict’. This pre-supposes that I believe conflict in the work place can be positive. 

Let me explain in brief. 

Organisations that have strong management and are mature and open minded enough to take in their stride that difference of opinions are normal and are open to ’respectful’ exchanges and passionate arguments are I believe, the most successful and healthy organisations. 

Conflict turns negative when it is personalised. Where ideas that could benefit the organisation are not shared through fear of being ridiculed or perhaps fired! It is not about encouraging conflict but rather to acknowledge that when people are spending time together the potential for conflict to happen becomes very real.

What is important is how we respond. An organisation that is too authoritarian can suppress creative thinking, honesty and generate sabotage. 

An organisation that is too weak in style can create mayhem, as there is little direction and no clear boundaries. What is needed is an even balance that satisfies the organisation’s purpose and those it employs in order to expedite its work.

1. A good start would be to clearly define the organisation’s values and stick to them. Any incongruence between published values and perceived practices will contribute to ill feeling.

2. When promoting an employee who will be expected to manage others ensure they are given the people skills to match.

3. Generic training is not always the best fit, instead consider individual skills development.

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