Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Conflict-Competent Mindset: Is Conflict Good or Bad

A conflict begins and ends in the hearts and minds of people, not in the hilltops.          -Amos Oz

 Wherever there’re groups of people, there’re conflicts. People vary in their ideology, cognizance, perceptions, and priorities; and they react to situations in different ways. Therefore, conflict is perhaps inevitable, the conflict can stimulate creative thinking or solutions when solving it positively; it may cause damage and negative impact if not handling properly. So is conflict good or bad; if too much conflict is bad... too little conflict is bad... How do you know you're at the right level of conflict?

Conflict management is one of the big areas to learn and apply in the team environment. It is so natural if a bunch of people is working in a team towards the common goal, there will be conflicts and it is leader/manager's top duty to resolve those issues without any bias for the smooth functioning of the team. Having conflicts in the team is sometimes productive as well if it could lead to open-minded discussion for alternative problems solving and it creates a sense of positive competition in the team, and a number of times, a lot of new ideas come up for some very difficult tasks. On the other side, the conflict may be caused by unhealthy competition, hostility and excessive emotional involvement, how to handle it effectively is the art of the management. One possible metric might be that 'if no one is ever annoyed, you have too little conflict, and if everyone is always annoyed, you have too much!'

The key is to find out the root cause of the conflict. Otherwise, you are likely to respond in a manner that reinforces the negative behavior and allows it to spread to rest of peers. It could be a cultural difference, it could be a lot of life challenges in a short period of time. There are major transformations, involving a lot of cultural change. The key is finding out the root cause of the negative attitude, behavior, etc., boils down to take the time to know the team, the situation, the scenario, and the root cause.

Welcome the diverse viewpoints, even they seem to conflict, and build a positive atmosphere with a culture of innovation. There is the energy between people, meaning they are not afraid to say things that will help the business, in many command-control working environments, where there is no energy in the room because people are afraid of being themselves and saying anything. At the same time, communication doesn't destroy others' self-esteem or end up being about getting the last word. Things are being acted on, the team is energized and there are healthy debates, but not debate for the debate's sake. People or the facilitator of the meeting knows when to stop debating and act. 

Conflict Management capability self-check:
1)     How capable are you at utilizing the specific behaviors known to make conflicts more productive in order to encourage CONSTRUCTIVE behaviors?
2)     How capable are you at avoiding the use of the specific behaviors known to make conflicts worse-to cause DESTRUCTIVE behaviors?
3)     How aware are you of what triggers to the conflict, and what are the specific ways to better manage them before and after the buttons to trigger the conflict are pushed.

Be Conflict competent. Of course, the great thing about looking at the conflict from a behavioral point of view is that behaviors can be learned. And it means that anyone who wants to become more "conflict competent" can become more "conflict competent." From a management perspective, everyone likes to be successful, the best way to deal with people is to give them a taste of success, reward them for it, and then keep raising the bar and pushing them to achieve the next level or change that needed

So the right way to deal with conflict is to identify them right at the start, find the root causes, to encourage the constructive behavior and open discussion upon the issues. Open discussions upon disagreements are not inconsistent with peace and harmony and high performance, and to transform conflict into competency.


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