5 tips for Healthy Conflict: The Missing Ingredient in Organizational Health

3 min read
Sep 11, 2023 9:26:19 AM

Conflict avoidance is a tempting strategy. Who wants to stir the pot, right? But, with 85% of employees experiencing some kind of conflict at work, avoiding it will only lead to further problems.

When conflict is suppressed, it doesn't disappear; it festers. Unspoken concerns and unresolved issues can create a toxic work environment, stifling creativity and productivity. Ultimately, avoiding conflict hampers your organization's growth potential.

Leadership guru, Patrick Lencioni says “the vast majority of organizations today have more than enough intelligence, expertise, and knowledge to be successful. What they lack is organizational health.”

One of the core pillars of organizational health? Healthy conflict.

Before you panic and close out of this article, consider just one area of your organization that could benefit from a healthy dose of debate.

Got it? Now it’s critical to understand what we’re talking about when we say “conflict.”

What healthy conflict is not.

Conflict is not pointing fingers, casting blame, or implementing change by force. 

What healthy conflict is.

Conflict is productive, unfiltered debate that ultimately leads to growth, understanding, and progress. Uncovering the uncomfortable is how we experience improvement.

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5 Tips for embracing healthy conflict:

1.Mine for conflict - Seek out opportunities for constructive debate. Encourage team members to express their thoughts, even if they contradict the prevailing opinion.

Make it easy by using a digital workspace like Leadr to ask for feedback from your team as a starting point. One of our favorite surveys is the T3B3 where you simply ask for your 3 top skills and 3 bottom skills you could work on. Sometimes this is enough to get an honest conversation going.

2. Seek understanding - Set the stage by clarifying that the goal of any debate is alignment and improved outcomes. When everyone understands this, they are more likely to engage in open and honest discussions. 

One of the best ways to de-escalate a challenging conversation is to get on the other person’s level by understanding how they think and work. Look at their personality assessment data to learn the best way to approach the conversation. For example, do they prefer direct feedback or is it better to back into the difficult conversation? Here's what that looks like in Leadr. 

3. Show your cards -Transparency is key. As a leader, show vulnerability by admitting where you might be wrong or where you need improvement. This can encourage others to do the same. 

4. Keep the momentum going - Establish a culture where difficult conversations are not just accepted but encouraged. Make it a regular part of your meetings to address the "elephant in the room." Consistently inviting people to engage in difficult conversations is the key to a healthy culture and increased results.

5. Remember, it’s a process - You won’t always get it right. That’s okay. Sometimes getting it wrong a few times (or a few dozen) is how you learn and grow to be a conflict advocate instead of a conflict avoider. Over time, your organization will become more adept at embracing healthy conflict.

Here’s an example of a repeated, shared agenda item that leaves space for difficult conversations.


The importance of communication

When you eliminate conflict avoidance from your organization, you pave the way for improved communication. And where there's better communication, there's less room for negativity to take hold. Negative thoughts and emotions thrive in the absence of open dialogue. So, by fostering a culture of healthy conflict, you not only promote growth but also create a more positive and engaging work environment.

In today's complex and competitive business landscape, organizational health is non-negotiable. It's not enough to rely solely on the intelligence and expertise of your team; you need to cultivate an environment where open and productive debate can flourish. So, start by embracing healthy conflict, and watch as progress and innovation follow suit. Your organization's future success may depend on it.

Looking for more on the topic of difficult conversations at work. Check out these related articles:

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