How does your team manage conflict? Do you embrace it, seek it and harness it to make great decisions collectively? Or does it suck the life out of you making it difficult to engage, build trust, and produce results?
If you’re dealing with conflict every day and it’s negatively impacting the quality of work outcomes, you’re not alone. It's estimated that 65% of performance problems result from strained relationships between employees, not lack of skill or motivation.
In one of the most comprehensive studies ever done on workplace conflict, CPP Inc. found that 85% of employees at all levels experienced conflict at some point in their work experience, 29% experienced it almost constantly, and nearly one in ten (9%) say it led to a project failure. The same study reported U.S. employees spend 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict, equating to approximately $359 billion in paid hours (at average 17.95/hour.)
Clearly, the financial strain of conflict is staggering, but the personal impact on health and wellness is equally alarming. Over a quarter of employees (27%) have been involved in a workplace disagreement that led to personal insults or attacks, while (25%) have seen conflict lead to sickness or absence.
On the flip side, teams that openly disagree, discuss different viewpoints, and listen to learn versus defend, thrive and succeed in high-stakes conversations requiring innovation and collaboration. When teams can’t manage conflict effectively, valuable resources are wasted costing the company time, money and stress.
So what can you do to leverage conflict in a healthy way and improve work outcomes?
1. Take A Fearless Personal Inquiry
Think back to the last team meeting where you got really triggered. What did you say? What did you do? Did your actions contribute to a resolution or cause escalation? Did you address the business problem to be solved or react to a personality clash?
Take time to reflect and be brutally honest about your contribution to the losses in productivity and the cost to your team when you struggle to manage your emotions, shut down or won’t consider differing viewpoints.
2. Gain Greater Self-Awareness
Consider taking an assessment to get more connected to your hot buttons and conflict behaviors. Self-awareness is key. Knowing how you personally respond to conflict is the first step in being able to manage it when it arises.
One of the best tools for gaining a greater understanding and appreciation for our hot buttons and behavioral responses to conflict is the Conflict Dynamics Profile. The CDP is not a personality assessment. It doesn’t identify who we are or how we’re hard-wired but rather measures our behavioral responses to conflict or disagreement with others. It’s all about becoming aware of our behaviors so that we can begin to shift and be more constructive in our responses to more quickly come to a mutual agreement or resolution. Ultimately to be able to solve business problems without them becoming personal problems taking up time, causing stress and wasting resources.
The CDP model views conflict as a complex process that tends to start with a precipitating event. It could be simple or complex but basically it puts one’s interests and someone else’s, in opposition to one another. It could be different goals, ideas, opinions, beliefs, values etc.
Once a precipitating event takes place, we then have a choice of how to respond.
Constructive responses make things better, lead to eventual resolution, and are focused on the business problem and ideas.
Destructive responses make things worse, escalate the conflict, and tend to be focused on the people and personalities involved.
Some examples of constructive responses are:
Several destructive responses are:
Winning at all costs
Knowing which circumstances tend to trigger us and how we typically respond can help us prepare and prevent conflict before it even starts. The key is to maximize the constructive responses while being acutely aware of and minimizing the destructive ones.
As individuals, the way we respond to conflict determines our ability to contribute in a meaningful way and make high-stakes decisions collaboratively. As a team, if we don’t encourage and leverage healthy conflict, we lose the capacity to listen and learn from one another, missing out on the benefits of diverse thinking and valuable insights that lead to optimal innovation and performance.
Are you willing to take a fearless personal inquiry and assess your role in the overall team dynamic? Are you ready to shift destructive behaviors to nourish positive, healthy conflict and harness collective brainpower, improve team performance and produce better outcomes?