There is a lot of energy in conflict. People spend a large amount of their time fuelling the fire, seeking allies, talking it over with colleagues at the coffee machine (again, and again, and again). Given the pressures that managers are under, any energy flying around the workplace needs to be garnered and harnessed to good effect, not avoided or squashed!
Managing conflict well is not about stopping it, or dampening it down. It is about working to turn the energy being put into a negative outcome, into a positive outcome.
We believe that there is potential in conflict, because it can:
- Bring issues into the open
- Lead to resolution
- Be a driver of change
- Build understanding of differences
- Dissipate anger
- Raise awareness of other people’s needs
- Create a focus on common goals
- Unify, bond and have a positive impact on team spirit
- Motivate people to raise issues and discuss new ideas
- Challenge existing inadequacies, shortcomings of systems
- Lead to review and reassessment of situations and organisations.
There are many things that can make it difficult for people to see the positive potential in conflict:
- The heavy weight of previous experience of negative conflict
- A lack of confidence in their own skills to handle conflict
- No confidence in other people’s ability to respond constructively – so they’re anxious things will get only worse
- Corporate cultural and social pressures which encourage negative conflict – ‘health competitiveness’, ‘robust exchanges’ and ‘survival of the fittest’ mindsets.
Taking a mediation approach will rebuild skills, give you confidence that people can respond well to difficult situations, that people in a dispute can work towards mutually beneficial outcomes; it doesn’t have to be a winner- takes- all result.