Getting To Healthy Conflict

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Healthy Conflict

Unless you work completely independently, you can count on conflict taking place at some point among your colleagues.  Some conflict is healthy, the kind where the team puts all ideas on the table, vets them and decides on the best action to take.  Some conflict is not so healthy... the emotionally charged kind that creates barriers and keeps people from performing their best.  So, how do organizations foster the healthy conflict and minimize the unhealthy conflict?

Clarity is key.

Clarity on job expectations -- who is on the hook, and for what?  Overlaps and gaps between staff and job responsibilities, or in other words "who is responsible for what", causes conflict.

Clarity on behavioral standards -- how are we to behave when we carry out our job duties AND how do we interact with each other?  Tying these behaviors to core values is key to alignment between the mission of the organization and how we act when we do what needs to be done to accomplish the mission. 

Clarity on each individual’s natural style helps to create understanding of each person’s tendencies and motivating needs.  When we have a greater understanding of what motivates our teammates, it eliminates the tendency to take everything personally.

Clarity on authority levels -- do people have the proper authority to carry out their responsibilities?  When someone has the responsibility to handle a task but not the proper authority level, frustration, conflict and disengagement can be the result. 

Then, ensure accountability and follow-up are appropriately in place.  If we aren’t holding people accountable and giving feedback, then things start to slip which takes an organization or team quickly down the path toward unhealthy conflict and disengagement.

The best teams have regular, healthy conflict.  It’s the only way to ensure all ideas are considered and the best course of action is ultimately in place.  Clarifying roles, behaviors, and authority levels will help establish the optimal environment for healthy conflict.