Productive Conflict in the Workplace: How to Turn Opposition into Opportunity

October 9, 2020by Vanessa Rose

Conflict often seems daunting and stressful, but some view it as an opportunity. As an employee, or someone involved in conflict, there are things you can do to make the most of the situation and gain some personal growth while also contributing to the overall betterment of your workplace. Productive conflict in the workplace isn’t as contradictory as it sounds.

Productive Conflict in the Workplace

It might sound strange considering how exhausting conflict can feel, but disputes between colleagues can actually create positive impacts in the work environment. Personal and collective growth can happen from this place if you stay engaged and try on some new behaviors that can support the process and create productive conflict in the workplace.

Widen Your Perspective

You have your thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the situation at hand and you may feel protective or enthusiastic about them. But what might you gain if you could understand the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of the person you’re in conflict with? By taking a stance of curiosity and empathy, and asking clarifying questions, you might be able to find middle ground with the person you’re sparring with in a way that benefits you both.

Express Yourself

It’s always important to be able to effectively and authentically express yourself. This is even more true when engaged in conflict. While work isn’t necessarily where you go to talk about your feelings, sharing emotions and perspectives that arise from your experiences there can help reduce the risk for conflict. This can help improve communication allowing you to advocate for yourself in a way that helps the other person truly understand your needs, which can reduce tension around the idea of needing to suppress those feelings. This can contribute a lot to productive conflict in the workplace.

Initiate Recovery

Mediation between two employees doesn’t have to involve a formal process. Try to be the first person to engage in a peaceful manner, even if the problem hasn’t reached its solution yet. When the dust settles, your emotions quell, and the solution sets in, how do you want to be remembered by peers and bosses in terms of how you handled this conflict within the workplace? The idea is thinking that far ahead will help put the current emotions into perspective so that they’re validated but also aren’t in charge of your behavior. Express a desire to understand the other person’s perspective, own what you did wrong in the conflict, and ask what you can do to make amends and move toward a solution.

Create Solutions

One of the more common conflict strategies in the workplace is to stay solution-focused. Think outside of the box, and your own emotions, to identify creative solutions. Sit with the person you’re in conflict with and identify what each of your goals and needs are. Then begin to brainstorm ideas that could support those goals and check in with each other by asking questions such as “would another solution be ___?” Remain flexible in this process and be willing to compromise for the sake of optimal impact. This is one important way to learn how to handle conflict between coworkers, even if you’re one of the coworkers. Be mindful of when you’re no longer able to handle this on your own and need some support. Conflict coaching is available to those who need help navigating these complicated issues.

Conflict is inevitable but cultivating productive conflict in the workplace can be a helpful tool for this and future disputes. Find the right resolutions for your team and contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today.

Two people shaking hands symbolizing productive conflict in the workplace

Vanessa Rose

Vanessa is a licensed psychotherapist and writer living in Los Angeles. When not on a mission for inner peace and conflict resolution, she enjoys making art, visiting the beach, and taking dog portraits. Always curious about self-improvement and emotional expansion, Vanessa also manages her own website which explores the unconscious and archetypal influences on how we eat, express, and relate.

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