The Importance and Benefits of Conflict Management
Many managers fear conflict. They believe that conflict is negative, causing problems in the team and hurting people’s feelings.
Rather than be uncomfortable and engage in difficult conversations, many managers avoid conflict altogether, allowing tensions to build.
But it is the avoidance of conflict that causes the problem. When conflict is handled poorly, it takes control of your team. This kind of unhealthy conflict is characterized by disrespect, refusal to compromise, anger, defensiveness and fear.
Instead, conflict should be embraced so that it can be managed effectively. Well-managed conflict becomes the key to effective communication in high-performing teams.
When a manager understands how to manage conflict, team members are not afraid to disagree with one another, challenge and question each other, all in the spirit of finding the best answer and making great decisions.
Being able to trust one another enough to debate and collaborate is the beauty of well-managed conflict and a key characteristic of high-performing teams.
This article discusses the importance of well-managed conflict in an organization, its benefits, and some tips on better conflict management.
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The Importance of Conflict Management in Your Organization
Many managers think that conflict can only be negative, that its result is only ever bad. In other words, they think conflict is characteristic of poor team dynamics.
They’re not entirely wrong.
Conflict can be negative, and poorly managed conflict is unhealthy and a symptom of team dynamics needing repair.
But conflict, when managed successfully, brings many advantages to your team.
Benefits of Effective Conflict Management
Teams cannot have effective communication without productive conflict.
A manager’s goal should be to create an environment of well managed conflict.
Teams that trust one another are not afraid to engage in passionate dialogue around issues and decisions that are key to the organization’s success.
When conflict is managed effectively team members see conflict as a tool to exchange ideas while allowing each party to be equally heard.
"Teams cannot have effective communication without productive conflict."
Properly managed conflict is an effective form of communication rather than a fearful argument.
Under effective conflict management team members remain calm and non-defensive in their discussion of ideas. They desire to to seek comprise and move past the issue at hand to come to an appropriate resolution.
Well managed conflict then has many benefits for your organization. With productive, well managed conflict, you will see the following:
☑️ Increased team performance, productivity, energy, and engagement.
☑️ Improved leadership throughout the entire team.
☑️ Greater innovation and creativity.
☑️ Increased trust and connection among team members.
☑️ Higher employee retention rates.
☑️ Reduced employee stress and absence.
☑️ Advanced workplace communication and collaboration.
Now that you understand the benefits of improved conflict management you need to know how to improve your conflict management skills. Keep reading for some effective methods of conflict management. 👇
Strategies for Better Conflict Management
When embracing conflict and learning how to properly manage it, managers must understand the conflict continuum, from artificial harmony that becomes office politics and gossip to mean-spirited conflict that is outright destructive.
Artificial harmony is when people appear to be getting along, but they’re not connecting or understanding one another. Instead they save face and act polite in front of each other, and gossip about one another at the water cooler.
This is not the level you want your team to be operating on, as a team’s greatest potential can’t be achieved in an environment where people are afraid to step on each other's toes. There is no honesty in this kind of environment, and real innovative work can’t be achieved.
On the other hand, destructive conflict that comes from personal attacks and disrespect must also be avoided. This kind of conflict creates a toxic environment that lacks productivity, motivation, and employee engagement.
To avoid the negative end of the conflict continuum, many managers avoid conflict altogether and end up close to the spectrum’s artificial harmony. But what managers need to do is manage conflict in a way that puts their team closer to the center of the continuum, the ideal conflict point. At the ideal conflict point you and your team will find the synergy you need to reach high levels of innovation, and productivity.
To get closer to the middle of the continuum, managers must encourage debate and dialogue around ideas and issues. Such as, asking team members for feedback and encourage them to voice their ideas and opinions on various discussion topics.
Below you will find a few strategies to effectively manage conflict to find the ideal point of conflict on the conflict continuum.
Understand Your Team’s Makeup
Most often, negative conflict arises from misunderstandings and differing personalities butting heads.
As a manager, when you understand the various personalities on your team, you can better manage reactions and emotions either when disagreements occur or to prevent arguments from becoming toxic.
The best way to understand personalities is through DISC, a popular personality assessment that helps create a categorical understanding of typical patterns of individuals’ behaviours and emotions.
DISC will help you recognize each specified personality style’s characteristics, including your own, and help you and your teammates change your communication to meet other individuals’ needs on your team.
Understanding what individuals need based on their personalities will help you manage conflict as a manager because you’ll be able to show your team members that their feelings are validated and listened to. Accommodating to various personalities is actually another tactic to improve conflict management. 👇
Accommodate to Your Teammates
Being able to adapt to various personalities is characteristic of emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is defined as your ability to identify and manage your own emotions along with the feelings of others around you.
Understanding other people’s emotional reactions enable you to mediate emotional responses.
Emotional intelligence also allows you to see and be open to the perspectives and opinions of others.
Managing emotional responses so that others don’t "fly off the handle," and being able to validate the emotions of others is a key factor to better conflict management.
Coach Your Team Towards Better Collaboration
As a manager, your role is not only that of a leader but also a coach.
Giving your team members personalized guidance to collaborate at work can be highly beneficial.
Some team members might need to be more assertive, while others may need to cooperate more. As a manager, you must identify areas for team members to improve and help them get there.
While coaching your team members, it’s also important that you encourage them to share their feedback and ideas and question each other.
You can act as a mediator in these early stages. Eventually, team members will become accustomed to better habits handling conflict, allowing them to manage conflict smoothly independently.
These three methods of conflict management will help you reap the benefits of of well managed conflict within your organization.
For more strategies on better conflict management practices and tips for effective conflict resolution, check out the article, Top 5 Skills Every Manager Needs to Resolve Conflict.