Many articles were written about the political tension in some workplaces before the election. Many more have been written since about the stress that workers are feeling after the unexpected results, and all that’s happened since the inauguration.
Well, things are about to get even weirder politically and conflicts of opinion among employees that may have been kept below the radar may surface now (if they haven’t already).
The problem with “conflict” is that it has a bad rap.
We don’t like it, don’t know quite what to do about it, so we avoid it. But that’s not healthy. Today, I thought it might be helpful to bust some myths we have about conflict, and next week share some tools to deal with it.
Myth 1. Conflict is avoidable.
Conflict is not avoidable.
All of us experience conflict. We argue with our spouses, disagree with our family and best friends. If you stop and think about it, conflict is normal. So long as people are individuals there will be the potential for conflict, political or otherwise. Since you can’t prevent conflict, the most important thing is to learn how to handle or manage it in productive ways.
Myth 2. Conflict produces bad, negative stuff.
Sure, sometimes conflict leads to toxic dysfunctional outcomes, but not necessarily. For example conflict, when managed properly, can drive innovation and new ways of thinking. If different points of view are explored and honestly debated, new ideas and solutions can appear. Common ground may even be discovered. When we allow our opinions to be challenged, we can modify and tweak them. The key is having basic ground rules for “fighting fair” that are respected by all involved.
Myth 3. Conflict creates polarization.
Sure, conflict can cause polarization. But, as author Richard Fagurlin explained at a recent conference, “embracing conflict provides an opportunity to clarify. Addressing conflict can lead to a breakthrough in a relationship through a better understanding of what the real problem may be.”
I would submit that since conflict is perfectly normal, we should expect it to occur. And just like death and taxes, we must accept it can’t be avoided. Trying to stop all conflict is a waste of our time and energy, let’s embrace it.
So what are some tools to make sure we handle the unavoidable in the most productive way? Tune in next week.