Achieving a conflict-free workplace is about as likely as bringing about world peace â€" a virtual impossibility, even with all of the world's beauty-pageant contestants working feverishly towards it. And unlike world peace, which is, of course, an admirable goal -- if somewhat unrealistic -- an end to workplace conflict is more likely to slow progress within your newly comfortable team than speed it up.
You can't blame people from shying away from conflict, as the word can take on many meanings, from the minor inner turmoil that stems from the complexity of human thought to the large-scale military operation with hundreds of thousands of casualties. That's quite a range, and could understandably lead to apprehension and confusion.
In a basic sense, conflict is the coming to terms with two or more differing views on how a problem, challenge or opportunity should be approached. These views have reasons behind them â€"- and more than likely, the proponents believe their reasoning is the most sound, the most productive and the most closely tied to the goals of the company.
Of course, having team members consider what courses of action will be productive for the company and commensurate with its goals is almost always a good thing, so in that sense, conflict is key to the day-to-day steering of a team.
So before becoming concerned about how much conflict you have on your team, first ask yourself if the conflict is productive.
Is it stimulating thought and consideration of how decisions will affect the team and the company?
Is it leading to compromise or the development of new methods and new ideas?
Is it creating long-standing rifts on the team that dampen team effectiveness?
After you've asked these questions and any others that might arise from them, take action.
Bring in an expert to help your team work toward a more productive conflict of ideas.
Present models of productive conflict from famously successful teams.
Show them how it's done yourself by asking for input or feedback on your direction of the team.
If you can chart what ideas and new directions have stemmed from conflicts within your own team, they may realize that it's worth the occasional hurt feelings.