Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone got along all of the time? Sweetness and light, no disagreements, no conflict. We may think so, but it would probably be boring, without much productivity and creativity. Conflict isn’t all bad. It’s good to share ideas and opinions that result in better decisions.
However, conflict can cause incredible stress in the workplace. It is one of those things that is inevitable if two or more people are together. We won’t always agree on everything.
Conflict often emerges more when people are stressed. For example, when there are changes on the horizon, or when everyone is under pressure because of a looming deadline.
Conflict can be destructive, leading people to develop negative feelings for each other and spend energy on the conflict rather than more productive endeavors. It can also deepen differences, and lead groups to polarize into either/or positions.
However, well-managed conflict can also be constructive, helping to ‘clear the air’, releasing emotion and stress, and resolving tension, especially if those involved use it as an opportunity to increase understanding and find a way forward together out of the conflict situation.
Learning to deal with conflict in a positive and constructive way, without excessive stress, is, therefore, an important way to improve your well-being as well as your relationships and team performance.
So when do you know what is ok and when it isn’t?
Conflict can either be functional or dysfunctional. Functional conflict supports the goals of the group or organization. Dysfunctional conflict hinders group performance.
Teams that fear conflict
- Have boring meetings
- Create environments where back-channel politics and personal attacks thrive.
- Ignore controversial topics that are critical to team success.
- Fail to tap into all of the opinions and perspectives of team members.
Teams that engage in conflict
- Have lively interesting meetings.
- Bring out and use the ideas of all team members.
- Solve problems quickly.
- Minimize politics.
- Put critical topics on the table for discussion.
If your staff is having passionate discussions about how to solve a problem or improve patient care that is a good thing. Address your employees’ behaviors if they are insulting each other, backbiting, or showing negative attitudes.
All great relationships require conflict to grow. Conflict should be ideological not personally focused or mean spirited. Building trust makes conflict possible. Members are more open to passionate debate knowing they won’t be punished for saying something that might be otherwise interpreted as critical.
The lesson is to allow conflict that is helpful, i.e., discussions about changes to a policy or needed improvements in patient care, and deal with conflict that is going to damage the team or quality patient care.
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