Whether they occur in the office or in someone's personal life, conflicts are generally viewed as negative interactions. People are afraid of butting heads because they do not want to damage the relationships they have with others. This leads to conflict avoidance being the norm, both in the office and elsewhere.
The problem with this mindset, however, is that conflict avoidance is actually more toxic to relationships than sitting down and settling differences or discussing alternating viewpoints. As Good Therapy recently noted, keeping painful feelings such as anger, frustration and helplessness internalized, instead of actively discussing them with coworkers, can lead to resentment both toward other employees and the company itself. The goal of conflict avoidance is often to keep the peace by not bringing up grievances, but at the end of the day, it may end up creating more negative emotions throughout the workplace.
For businesses, the good news is that conflict is not actually a bad thing. In fact, it can lead to a lot of good things, such as:
- An expression of new and constructive ideas that may have been bottled up in the past to prevent hurt feelings.
- Fresh views of old policies and programs that may help drive meaningful change moving forward.
- Improved relationships between coworkers, because if one person is infuriating another but does not know about it, they will not change their behaviors. If these habits are called out and addressed in a productive way, all parties may benefit.
Resolving conflicts the right way
Conflict avoidance is not productive for anyone, but at the same time, failure to resolve conflicts in a productive way can be just as bad. It is not useful to harbor a dislike in the office, nor is it useful having a workplace where people are bickering and arguing all the time.
The key is creating a healthy workplace that encourages people to be honest with their feedback and suggestions, but at the same time is well prepared to resolve these conflicts in a positive, productive way. This will help build relationships in a healthy fashion and ensure people respect each other, even if they may not see eye to eye on different aspects of the job.
Successful conflict resolution is a process. It often begins with proper planning so that everyone going into these discussions understands which points they want to address and can properly voice their opinion on these points without the discussion becoming emotionally charged. All points should be positioned so participants can engage in the conversation productively.
It all comes down to understanding the motivations that drive people. Anyone can state a point, the key is finding out why they think that way. Once people can understand the motivations behind their coworkers's actions or positions on certain subjects, they can use that enhanced understanding to find a solution they can all agree on. Oftentimes, the reason conflict resolution efforts are not successful is because people settle on the points, not on motivations, which can leave people unsatisfied with the results.