Luckily, however, when handled well, conflict can have positive outcomes: It can help you be more creative, spark new ideas, and even strengthen bonds with your coworkers, as it did between Antonio and Rebecca.
You might dream of living in a peaceful utopia, but it wouldn’t be good for your company, your work, or you.
“Conflict allows the team to come to terms with difficult situations, to synthesize diverse perspectives, and to make sure solutions are well thought out. Conflict is uncomfortable, but it is the source of true innovation and also a critical process in identifying and mitigating risks,” says Liane Davey, an expert in team dynamics.
Here are 4 specific benefits:
1. Better work outcomes
When you and your coworkers push one another to continuously ask if there’s a better approach, that creative friction is likely to lead to new solutions. And there’s rarely a fixed amount of value to be gained in a disagreement. If you and your colleague are arguing about the best way to roll out a new initiative -he wants to launch in a single market first and you want to enter several at one time - you’ll be forced to explore the pros and cons of each approach and ideally find the best solutions. It may be that you decide to run the pilot he wants but on a shorter time frame so that you get the revenue from reaching the other markets sooner.
2. Opportunity to learn and grow
As uncomfortable as it may feel when someone challenges your
ideas, it’s an opportunity to learn. You gain experience from incorporating feedback, try new things, and evolve as a manager. When a peer chews you out after an important presentation because you didn’t give her team credit for their work, the words may sting, but you’re more likely to think through everyone’s perspectives before preparing your next talk.
3. Improved relationships
By working through conflict together, you’ll feel closer to the people around you and gain a better understanding of what matters to them and how they prefer to work. You’ll also set an important precedent: that it’s possible to have “good” fights and then move on. Two regional managers who engage in a lengthy debate about who should be responsible for maintaining quality in their region have, at the end of the day, learned information about each other that will help them work better together in the future.
And they’ve shown their teams that it’s possible to move beyond conflict, to not get entrenched in a viewpoint but to make progress toward a resolution.
4. Job satisfaction
When you’re not afraid to constructively disagree, or even fight, about issues at work, you’re likely to be happier to go to the office, be satisfied with what you accomplish, and enjoy interactions with your colleagues. Instead of, feeling as if you have to walk on eggshells, you can focus on getting your work done. A study in China showed a correlation between the use of certain approaches to conflict management—ones in which employees pursue a win-win situation, care for others, and focus on common interests—and an employee’s happiness at work.
For conflict to have any of these benefits, you have to learn the skills to proactively address problems and engage in healthy discussions. Fortunately, you have ample opportunity to try. The average person spends nearly three hours each week dealing with conflict at work, according to a study by CPP Global. Another study by CPP
showed that managers report spending 18% to 26% of their time dealing with conflicts. Since we spend so much time engaged in disagreements, it’s worth our effort to get them right—to temper our reactions and manage the conflict so that it’s more productive.