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Have a Nice Conflict ..... Really?







By Rita Lally, Director
SmartMoves Human Capital

Have you ever thought it would be possible?  Probably not and neither did I, especially in the workplace where there are so many different personality types working together.    Although conflict can be healthy at times, it can be extremely costly when out of control.  Believe it or not, there are techniques that one can use to create an environment where ‘having a nice conflict’ can become a reality.

Have you ever thought, or asked yourself, what conflict may be costing your organisation?  Have people resigned because issues were not addressed satisfactorily?  Has there been anxiety or clashing amongst team members not working well together? Have people complained about uneven work distribution and overload, causing undue stress, resulting in poor health and possibly high absenteeism?   We all know the syndrome – “the more you do, the more you get or, whoever shouts loudest ..”   All of these are common issues in a workplace but may not be perceived to fall under the ‘conflict’ banner.

So, when is it conflict?  When people find they are in ‘opposition’ to something, it may not necessarily be termed as conflict.  It could simply be a difference of opinion (lets agree to disagree); resistance to changes in the workplace; rebelling against a policy or business rules as examples.  Conflict arises when the experience, or perception of a threat to ones’ self-worth, takes place and it becomes ‘personal’.  People only experience conflict about things that are important to them.  Most conflicts, however, will have elements of opposition to them but can be productively engaged when things are going well.  It is when a situation becomes untenable that problems arise – or surface.

An event, behaviour, situation or perception can trigger conflict.  When this happens we should be managing the emotional aspect of it and content before deciding what direction to take – whether to attempt to resolve the conflict, go deeper into conflict, or simply avoid it and leave it.  How often have you experienced a ‘blow up’ between two people and thought ‘wow, where did that come from, such a quiet person”?  An issue has more than likely been ignored, allowed to manifest as it was unresolved – suddenly there is this eruption.  It may seem unfounded, but there is always the underlying reason.....

Most of us avoid conflict if we can, unless forced into a corner.  It does not mean that one has to bring out the boxing gloves to resolve an issue.  The key is coming to terms with ones’ own motivation, recognising the source of the conflict in oneself and trying to restore the sense of ‘self-worth’ to the other person involved.  Here is an example -

You take pride in the accuracy and quality of your work.  Your manager has given you an impossible deadline for some work and stated that it must be met.  The only way to achieve this is by skimping on the research and reducing checking of the accuracy of the data.  You feel uncomfortable with the instruction.  What do you do?  How do you feel?

What is important to you and what is important to management is causing anxiety and conflicting priorities.  Your values versus managements’ are in opposition.  S/he only wants results, come what may, but you want to strive for perfection.  How do you handle the situation without losing face or challenging managements’ instruction?  The answer is to recognise where the two motivational values lie, where the differences in priorities lie, and seeking agreement to bring about a ‘win-win’ situation.

Prevent, Anticipate, Identify, Manage and Resolve issues and you will experience ‘having a nice conflict.”

About SmartMoves Human Capital
SmartMoves Human Capital is an integrated one stop Human Resources, Industrial Relations, Payroll, Financial Management and Reporting and Training services firm. The company offers a wide range of line and senior management training courses.

Visit us at to find out more.

Source: SmartMoves Human Capital
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