To which of these statements can you relate?
- I dislike conflict!
- Conflict is the toughest part of my job.
- I avoid conflict whenever I can.
- I never learned how deal with conflict.
- I would rather get a root canal than deal
Conflict is inevitable whenever people with diverse thoughts and who have different experiences and backgrounds come together for the pursuit of a common goal. It is rare that a group of people see everything the same way. There are usually different reactions to conflict and people often respond to it when their stress level is high. This can result in difficult situations, strained relationships, and an uncomfortable work environment.
But conflict is not necessarily negative; it can also be constructive. When people work together with a positive attitude and open minds, points of conflict can cause them to be more creative and innovative than they would be on their own. Different points of view help the collective group to excel beyond where one person could alone.
Outcomes of constructive conflict are:
- Each group member achieving his/her goals
- Strengthened relationships among group members
- Increased ability to resolve future conflicts
However, we all know that conflict can also be destructive. This is often the most talked about type. Conflict is destructive when people don’t work well together and sub-optimize resources that include material, time, and talent.
Outcomes of destructive conflict are:
- Pain, sadness, and stress for each group member
- Anger and hostility in the group setting
- Reduced effectiveness for the individuals and the group as a whole
- Sabotage and revenge among group members
There can also be a conflict of interest when one group member interferes with that of another in the pursuit of his or her own needs or personal desires, regardless of the impact upon others. These conflicts can be based on:
- Differences in needs, values, goals, and styles
- Scarcity of resources (including power)
Whether in the workplace or at home, creating a culture of trust and respect will reduce destructive conflict and create more constructive conflict. Both trust and respect are needed for employees or family members to communicate openly and effectively with one another. Trust without respect is not enough, nor is respect without trust enough.
To become an even better leader, one would be wise to focus on creating a culture where people want to be together and want the best for each other and the organization.