The thought of conflict at work will often make people feel uncomfortable. The very word 'conflict' can be taken as a negative and something to steer clear of.

However, it's important to harness conflict in the team as it can lead to better decisions and higher performance. In this month’s article, we take a look at why conflict can be good and offer up four ways to manage it positively.

First, let's look at the advantages of engaging in conflict.

  • It can stimulate discussion among the team and encourage everyone to contribute
  • It can encourage creativity, as new ideas are generated to resolve the conflict
  • It can improve the quality of decision-making
  • It can create a more energetic and stimulating atmosphere - meetings become highly interactive!

But, unless conflict is mined and channelled appropriately it can get out of control, leading to hostility and an inability to work as a team.

So how can you keep conflict positive?

Here are 4 ways of managing conflict that we offer leaders:

1. Set Ground Rules

No one wants personal attacks between people in their team and leaders should work hard to nip that type of conflict in the bud. Setting clear standards of behaviour in place for people to express their thoughts, viewpoints without resorting to an emotional entanglement is the foundation to successfully harnessing conflict.

2. Structure The Thinking

Set a clear structure to your meetings, using frameworks such as Six Hats Thinking to ensure a good balance of people stating their own views whilst listening and respectfully questioning others. Make sure all team members have the chance to contribute their views at the appropriate time.

You may consider appointing a devil’s advocate in important discussions, whose role it is to question everything. Don’t always ask the same person!

3. Press The Pause

Try hitting the pause button when an important decision is needed. Have an initial discussion and then let all the opinions settle before deciding.

Don't pause too long as it's important to make sure conflict isn’t left unresolved - if left, conflict can be much harder to resolve.

4. Conflict With Intent

As we have covered, when managed properly, conflict is constructive and leads to greater creativity and innovation. Successful teams all consciously use conflict to generate great ideas. Keep strategic aims and plans at the forefront of your mind to harness conflicts effectively.

There you have it, 4 ways to manage conflict. An essential ingredient in any Unstoppable Team!