Traditional management practices will always tell you to avoid conflict at all costs. It is natural to think that all forms of conflict will be counterproductive. But if you take a step back and really think of how it is affecting your organization, you’ll realize that fighting can sometimes be beneficial.
That is not to say of course that all forms of conflict are good. What we’re focusing on today is the “healthy conflicts” that make the overall group performance better. Here are some of the things you, as a manager, can instill in your staff:
Fighting on Facts
One way to keep conflict healthy is to promote a culture of information in your company. Interpersonal differences arise more when the fight is over opinion. This means that your employees are using limited data to arrive at a solution. Having an information culture would encourage them to focus on hard data rather than opinions. Eventually, the fight would be over facts rather than on personal opinions, and the conflict would become less personal and a lot logical. Your company will have hard-rooted data to make decisions by, improving overall performance.
Evaluating a LOT of Alternatives
Some people would think having few alternatives eliminates conflict. But that’s hardly the case. When there are 2 alternatives, for example, it is much easier to polarize the staff. The situation becomes an Us vs. Them type of thing rather than a constructive, thoughtful process. This is why you should encourage your staff to build as many alternatives as possible. When opinions are less polarized, your employees will take the best elements from each alternative and build you the best hybrid super solution.
Working Toward Shared Goals
It is good to have conflict in the company if everyone is working toward the same common shared goals. If the conflict is pulling the company in different directions, that’s where managers need to step in and get rid of the source. But as long as there are healthy discussions and ritualistic oppositions that help in identifying loopholes in the precedent system, you’re encouraging innovation and creativity in your team. Operational innovation creates amazing organizations.
Keeping it Light
It is nice to instill a sense of companywide humor in your workforce. Inviting a light hearted culture makes it easier for your staff to debate and make tougher decisions. You can keep things light through something as simple as jokes during meetings, or something more systematic like “bring your pet to work day” or organizing office prank contests. Companies that perform best have the most fun.
Every Voice Matters
When your employees feel like their voices are being heard in the company, they are more likely to bring in new ideas and point our shortfalls to help you. If they don’t feel like they are part of the organization, they are going to fall back into complacency, keeping group performance rather stagnant. Which is never good.