Conflict? What’s that?

What is the one thing NOT to do when there is a conflict?

Avoiding them!!!

People hate conflicts. I would be surprised if you said that all people you’ve met so far enjoyed conflicts. We run away from them, we want other people to handle them or we blatantly ignore them. 

We’d rather agree with the other person for fear of generating conflict. The problem is, conflict isn’t necessarily bad. You don’t have to agree with the other person but do it in a respectful manner. Agree to disagree as the saying goes.

What if we are misusing the word conflict?

In fact, maybe it’s just a difference in opinion. These days, companies talk a lot about diversity and inclusion. Having different opinions offer  diversity.  What is the added value in a meeting if everyone proposes the same thing? You basically just need one person then!

The best brainstorming sessions I’ve witnessed occurred when every person in the meeting had a different opinion. Some people were very loud and adamant about how to proceed. Sometimes there were heated discussions. At the very end though, they came up with a great solution that no one alone thought of. It definitely helps to have a facilitator when you know that egos will clash. I facilitated the meeting and diffused a few tense moments but it was worth it.

When you are challenged, you feel uncomfortable, that is because you are being pushed out of your comfort zone. Take this challenge (i.e. dealing with conflict) with open arms and realize that this is helping you grow. Don’t fear it, but face it instead! You’ll be glad you did.

What if we are using the correct word conflict?

It is likely at some point that you will have team members who won’t get along well. It seems like they are always in conflict. 

I remember this team member who had a very strong personality, which came from his culture, where he was from. He spoke freely his thoughts and some people would say it didn’t sound kind.  He had an opinion and well, he just said it.

Another team member had to work with this person and couldn’t handle his manner of speaking. His reaction was to ignore the other person or make fun of him. The other one just kept bashing him.

I sat down with them and let them talk. I encouraged one person to listen while the other one was talking. I asked them to say what was bothering them. The other person defended himself. In a few occasions, it turns out it was just a misunderstanding. I ended the discussion asking each one to say what they appreciated from each other.  Each person was surprised to hear that they were appreciated and that the other person recognized the value that they brought to the table.

Sometimes we feel unappreciated but it’s either that other people don’t know how to express their appreciation or you don’t recognize that other people are appreciating you. For example, some people feel appreciated when they are applauded in public. Others don’t care for public recognition but only cares about having a promotion.  You see my point?

 What can you do to help the team show their appreciation? One of the things I do during retrospective is have a section of “Thank You” or “Kudos”. This enables the team to highlight someone’s contribution. I received good feedback from this addition.

In a lot of cases, conflicts can be handled. You need to roll up your sleeves and help the team get through this conflict. In cases where you’ve tried everything, then it’s about time to involve the managers.

What type of conflict did you experience or witness in your teams?