Many people do not want to deal with confrontation in any fashion. Some see clashes with other people as a failure to “keep the peace.” This ideology (keeping the peace) is not necessarily productive for teamwork development. Teams that suppress disagreements will most likely evolve into a stagnant organization with no life at all. A strong team must decide upfront that they will not avoid disputes but will develop a strategy to address it.
“Conflict is inevitable, and it can be destructive or useful, depending on how the leader handles it. Leaders create environments in which opportunity, honesty, and a kind of automatic mediation device exist. Leaders do not avoid, repress, or deny conflict, but rather see it as an opportunity. Once everyone has come to see it that way, they can exchange their combative posture for a creative stance, because they don’t feel threatened, they feel challenged.”1
The Character of Conflict
Conflict can have many definitions. There is no doubt that opposing views or ideologies will exist in any organization. It can also be said that this is a “clash” between differing opinions. Many times these “clashes” can be explosive and volatile. But contentions are necessary for the healthy growth of any teamwork.
“One of the best strategies for letting conflict work for you involves coming out of denial and coming to grips with the reality that challenges go with the territory of leadership.” 2
Conflict is a natural and healthy fight between varying interests and the personalities that possess these differing ideas. Sometimes the spat does not even appear to have a reason. But there are reasons. Conflict can be produced by
- Changes in the environment of an organization.
- Personnel changes. A new person(s) on the scene.
- The failure to communicate properly.
- Financial issues. This problem can deal with personal income or the finances of the organization.
- Personality clashes.
- Disagreement regarding the plans for the organization.
- Inability to appreciate differing opinions.
- Differences in “work philosophies.”
Most people do not go out seeking a fight. There does seem to be a few rare individuals who thrive on it, however, most people do not. Here is a basic principle that might be encouraging for anyone going through a dispute:
“All conflicts have some nugget of truth!”
Many great decisions, wonderful inventions, new directions, and fresh ideas have been birthed by conflicting opinions. Therefore, as odd as it may sound, tension can be good for us. We certainly do not want to make it something we are part of every day. Conflict will stimulate the minds of those who are willing to open up to opposing ideas. It can open up a new direction that can be refreshing and energizing. The challenge is not to allow the tension of disagreement to be the final result.
Who is Dale Roach?
- Bennis, Warren. 1999. Managing people is like herding cats. Executive Excellence Publishing.
- McNeal, Reggie. 2000. A work of the heart. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.