Picture this: an office in Dhaka, with employees from diverse backgrounds and viewpoints working side by side. In the labyrinth of cubicles and the aroma of steaming cha, conflicts are bound to bubble up like an overenthusiastic curry pot. But is conflict always bad?
The term “productive conflict” may sound self-contradictory. After all, the word “conflict” implies a collision of ideologies, and this frequently entails violence. Naturally, fights can be very harmful. But constructive disagreements are not about wreaking destruction.
Productive conflict is an open discussion between opposing or divergent ideas. In such a dispute, the parties look for a resolution that would please all sides while still feeling respected and free to express their opinions.
People don’t argue only to gain the upper hand; instead, they remain committed to finding a solution. In other words, people are willing to abandon their own beliefs if they see that others’ opinions are superior.
Should we normalise or stifle conflict?
Workplace disagreements are inevitable. It’s impractical and frankly impossible to get an efficient outcome while trying to eliminate friction at work. Additionally, it is detrimental to the growth of a company. Even if team members disagree, their opinions are all heard and appreciated. Everyone feels more at ease sharing their ideas in a nonjudgmental setting. Stifling conflict prevents workers from feeling free to voice issues and concerns. As a result, no environment encourages sharing and open communication at work.
Understanding Conflict’s Nature
Understanding a disagreement’s nature is crucial for effective conflict resolution. Disputes at work frequently fall into one of two categories: relationship disputes or substantive conflicts.
1. Substantive conflicts: These disputes centre on divergent objectives, viewpoints, or concepts. If properly managed, they can be beneficial and even productive as they can encourage creativity and better judgment.
2. Relational conflicts: These disputes involve private matters and tense interactions between coworkers. Although they can be more difficult to handle, they are just as crucial for preserving harmony at work.
Principles of Productive Conflict Resolution
1. Open Communication: Encourage honest and open dialogue among the persons involved in the conflict. Establish a secure environment where workers can voice their opinions and concerns.
2. Active Listening: Make sure that everyone pays attention to the other person without interrupting. This makes it possible to comprehend the underlying problems more thoroughly.
3. Empathy: Promote understanding and empathy among team members. Encourage them to take into account the feelings and viewpoints of others.
4. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize: Personal attacks are a common result of confrontations. Remind staff to avoid personal attacks on one another and to concentrate on the current issue.
5. Collaborative issue Solving: Promote cooperative issue solving. Instead of pointing fingers, collaborate to come up with solutions that will help everyone.
How far is too far?
Determining if a productive conflict is going too far requires careful observation and assessment of the situation. Here are some signs to help you understand when productive conflict may be crossing the line:
1. Escalation of Emotions: When emotions become overwhelmingly intense and individuals involved in the conflict are unable to control their anger, frustration, or resentment, it’s a sign that the conflict may be going too far.
2. Personal Attacks: If the discussion shifts from addressing issues or ideas to personal attacks, name-calling, or belittling of individuals involved, the conflict has likely gone too far.
3. Lack of Progress: Productive conflict should aim for resolution or a constructive outcome. If the conflict persists without any forward movement or resolution in sight, it may have gone too far and become counterproductive.
4. Involvement of Others: When the conflict starts to involve bystanders who are not directly related to the issue but are negatively affected by it, it’s a signal that it may have gone too far and is impacting the work environment.
5. Disruption to Productivity: If the conflict disrupts work processes, hinders productivity, or leads to a toxic work atmosphere, it’s a clear indication that it has gone too far.
6. Violation of Workplace Policies: When the conflict violates company policies on harassment, discrimination, or respectful behaviour, it has definitely gone too far.
7. Physical Confrontation: Any form of physical aggression or violence is a severe sign that the conflict has gone way too far and requires immediate intervention.
What can we do when conflicts have gone too far?
We tend to overreact in conflicts at times. Workers may frequently harbour resentment against “opponents” and attempt to harm their reputation and productivity. Overall, the workplace becomes hostile and toxic, and nobody ultimately benefits.
To address conflicts that have gone too far, consider these steps:
1. Intervention: If you’re in a supervisory or leadership role, step in to mediate and defuse the situation.
2. Escalation: If the conflict persists, consider escalating the issue to HR or a higher authority within the organisation.
3. Conflict Resolution Training: Offer conflict resolution training to employees to help them develop better communication and conflict management skills.
4. Clear Policies: Ensure your organisation has clear policies on conflict resolution and respectful behaviour in the workplace.
5. Seek Professional Help: In extreme cases, involving a professional mediator or counsellor may be necessary to resolve deeply entrenched conflicts.
Fostering a healthy workplace culture that encourages open communication, respect, and constructive conflict resolution can help prevent conflicts from going too far in the first place.
Author- Tuba Tabassum Hridi