Rehabilitate conflict

N°207a – Synopsis (8p.) – Conflicts
Rehabilitate conflict
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Conflict can actually enhance performance when constructive discord reflects important company issues. How to ensure that disagreements add value and do not degenerate into destructive power struggles?

In the business world, discord is often seen in a negative light. Interpersonal quarrels and team rivalry are considered to be disruptive and a waste of time and energy. After all, isn’t everyone supposed to pull together in the common interests of the company? People are generally told to work together to achieve the strategic objectives of the business; the popularity of “conflict resolution” training attests to this attitude.

Yet, things aren’t so simple. While it is certainly true that petty quarrels often upset people and needlessly disturb the workplace, the most successful companies are not necessarily havens of perfect peace and harmony. To the contrary, they often experience real clashes. The authors of The Right Fight point out that businesses with a culture focused on consensus rarely achieve exceptional performance. As such, the goal is not necessarily to reduce the amount of conflict within an organization, but rather to play upon these disagreements to enhance performance.

To do this, our selected publications recommend three principle courses of action:

- Identify essential battles and make them visible. These battles must be fought in the open, as constructively as possible.

- Set clear rules and make sure they are followed. To limit the risks of unmanaged escalation, the stakeholders in a conflict must not feel free to hit below the belt.

- Don’t crush the losers. Constructive disagreements should give people a chance to defend their ideas, not force them to fight to the death.

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