In this article, we cover what productive conflict is and how it can transform, two models of conflict, recipe for productive conflict, and working with conflict in virtual teams.
What is Productive Conflict?
Productive Conflict is defined as the opportunity to make the most of a conflict situation – at the moment it is occurring. Productive Conflict is defined as the opportunity to make the most of a conflict situation – at the moment it occurs.
Conflict is a normal part of our working lives. In teams and companies where there is productive conflict, teams and companies flourish. In teams and companies where it is discouraged, suppressed, and or poorly conducted, people struggle to provide consistent success, and leaders spend significant amounts of time performing conflict resolution (something that typically occurs AFTER a conflict incident).
We further define Productive conflict as “an open exchange of conflicting or differing ideas in which parties feel equally heard, respected, and unafraid to voice dissenting opinions to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.” Team members experience it as a spirited debate about ideas and concepts that concludes such that the team can buy-in and commit to the decision.
Whereas we define unproductive conflict as “an argument, especially a repetitive one, without resolution, that leaves both parties feeling more angry and frustrated.” And there is destructive conflict which we define as mean-spirited debate that includes personal attacks.
Productive Conflict is ever more important now during this time as stress and tensions may be higher. There is greater pressure to produce to keep organizations viable and prove your job worth while simultaneously managing kids and/or elderly parents in a home space (or modified workplace) that you’ve been confined to for almost five months. Add to that the political tensions that have now entered the workplace and social conversations further exaggerating the likelihood of destructive or unproductive conflict.
The benefits of productive conflict are buy-in and commitment to ideas and team decisions. Teams learn more about the ideas and their possibilities during healthy conflict and spirited debate. Teams have seen and heard all sides of the topics. Conflict – if done right – is integral to a highly engaging culture and organizational success Today’s struggle leads to tomorrow’s breakthrough.
Keeping the conflict productive reduces the need for conflict resolution later. Cleaning it up in the moment reduces the need for leaders to spend time performing conflict resolution.
For organizations to THRIVE in today’s modern working environment, they must teach their workforce how to navigate conflict effectively.