Conflict is an inevitable part of organizational life. Whether it’s a disagreement between colleagues, a clash of priorities, or a difference of opinion on how to approach a project, conflicts can arise in any workplace. However, it’s important to understand that not all conflicts are negative. In fact, when managed effectively, conflict can be an opportunity for growth and innovation.
The Main types of Conflict
One of the first steps in managing conflict is to recognize the different types of conflict that can occur in the workplace.
There are two main types of conflict: task conflict and relationship conflict. Task conflict arises when there are differences of opinion about how to approach a task or goal, while relationship conflict involves personal disagreements or negative emotions between individuals.
Encourage Open Communication
To effectively manage conflict, it’s important to encourage open communication between parties. This means creating an environment where people feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and opinions without fear of reprisal. It’s also important to foster a culture of collaboration, where people are encouraged to work together to find solutions that benefit everyone involved.
Another key to managing conflict is to use conflict resolution techniques. These techniques can include active listening, brainstorming, and compromise. Active listening involves truly hearing what the other person is saying and acknowledging their perspective. Brainstorming involves generating ideas as a group and finding common ground. Compromise involves finding a solution that meets the needs of all parties involved.
Seek Outside Help
In addition to these techniques, seeking outside help can also be effective in managing conflict. Leadership coaches and mediators can help individuals and teams navigate complex conflicts and find mutually beneficial solutions. Mediation can be particularly effective in resolving relationship conflicts because it allows individuals to express their feelings and concerns in a safe and neutral environment.
Research has shown that managing conflict effectively can lead to better team performance, member satisfaction, and even increased creativity. A meta-analysis by De Dreu and Weingart (2003) found that task conflict can actually improve team performance when it is managed effectively. Singh and Srivastava (2019) found that task conflict can also lead to increased team creativity when collaboration is encouraged. Tjosvold, Wong, and Feng (2014) found that effective conflict management can enhance team effectiveness overall.
In conclusion, conflict is a natural part of organizational life, but it doesn’t have to be negative or destructive. By recognizing the different types of conflict, encouraging open communication, fostering a culture of collaboration, using conflict resolution techniques, and seeking outside help when necessary, individuals and teams can effectively manage conflict and use it as an opportunity for growth and innovation.
To start changing the culture, read our post to learn more about how to build a positive work environment!
De Dreu, C. K. W., & Weingart, L. R. (2003). Task versus relationship conflict, team performance, and team member satisfaction: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(4), 741–749. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.88.4.741
Rahim, M. A. (2017). Managing conflict in organizations. Routledge.
Singh, R. K., & Srivastava, S. K. (2019). Task conflict and team creativity: The moderating role of collaboration. Journal of Business Research, 96, 78–87. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2018.09.016
Tjosvold, D., Wong, A. S., & Feng, C. (2014). Enhancing team effectiveness through conflict management. Journal of Management Development, 33(7/8), 761–773.
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