• Jeff Doolittle

Productive Conflict is a Must at Work

Given the increase in anxiety and division in the world today, the chances for conflict at work have increased. Despite best intentions, sometimes different personalities, heavy workloads, lack of respect, and cultural differences can lead to non-productive conflicts with coworkers or customers. According to a survey by CPP Inc of 5,000 full-time employees in nine countries, 85% of employees deal with conflict at work. This same study found that US workers spend more than 2.5 hours per week in a conflict. The estimated impact of non-productive conflict in America is well over $1.5 billion annually, not to mention the emotional and psychological costs on the workforce. Beyond employee productivity and wellbeing, a study by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development of 2195 UK employees found that one in ten cases of conflict results in employee turnover. Of course, it is natural to want to minimize workplace conflict. Still, it is necessary to manage conflict and realize that productive conflict can have many positive outcomes.

When you hear the word conflict, do you have mostly positive or negative feelings? Many people tend to have negative feelings associated with the word. However, conflict is not necessarily referring to aggressive confrontations or arguments. Conflict could mean a heated argument or a simple difference of opinion. The distinction lies in the importance of the issue and the amount of energy you put into it. Conflict is not a sign of failure, but when it is avoided or ignored, we make it something worse.

  • Productive conflict is an open exchange of conflicting or differing ideas. Parties feel equally heard, respected, and unafraid to voice dissenting opinions to reach a mutually comfortable resolution.

  • Even though conflict may be uncomfortable, it is productive to have ideas challenged so we can learn and grow.

  • Non-productive conflict is an exchange of conflicting or differing ideas. Parties do not feel equally heard, respected, and afraid to voice dissenting opinions.

  • Non-productive conflict arises when the real issues are not discussed, and attention is placed on trivial matters resulting in the conflict escalating.

Productive conflict requires a healthy workplace culture and a strong commitment and dedication from everyone within the workplace. Conflict impacts more than just those that recognize the conflict. It is easy to miss the hidden cost of non-productive conflict in the workforce and the company's performance. Also, it is important to realize that our reactions to conflict can result in either positive or negative consequences.

3 Tips for Avoiding Non-Productive Conflict in the Workplace

When it comes to productive conflict, understanding what NOT to do is just as important as understanding what to do. The following are some tips to keep you from mismanaging conflict at work:

  1. Don't wait around and do nothing. If a conflict is left unresolved, it will escalate over time with win-lose outcomes.

  2. Don't let your bias drive your solution to the issue. We all have biases, and it is essential to reflect on the situation and people involved before moving to solutions.

  3. Don't approach workplace conflict without a plan. As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Take time to prepare a productive conflict approach, so you are not just reacting without thinking.

3 Tips for Productive Conflict in the Workplace

As we mentioned earlier, successfully creating productive conflict requires a healthy workplace culture and the dedication and commitment of the workforce. Invest the energy when times are tough. Avoiding conflict also takes time and energy. Avoiding conflict will only make matters worse for you, those involved, and the impact on your company. Commit and act. Like rapids in a river, there will be a time of conflict and calm. Both are natural and healthy for every workplace. The following are three tips for what you should do: