In my latest book, Corner Office Rules: The 10 Realities of Executive Life, I stress the importance of constructive conflict and why it is necessary for companies to embrace. Within any organization, big or small, there is sure to be disagreements along the way. Often times, dissimilarities cause tension, so the obvious ploy is to avoid it all together. However, conflict is a normal part of working together as a team. It challenges the organization to find innovative solutions to new and existing problems, as well as helps employees to develop deeper thinking skills.A company that does not embrace constructive conflict will result in damaged relationships amongst its employees, colleagues, and perhaps even the boss. Moreover, a culture that eludes conflict will only hinder a team’s success, negatively impacting the company as a whole.
Good leaders understand the value of conflict, recognizing that disagreements amid the organization often leads to superior results, sharing of ideas, and individual professional growth.
The advantage of constructive conflict is that it teaches employees how to advocate for differing and opposing opinions without taking things personally. Furthermore, conflict proves beneficial to a leader’s growth in the sense that it teaches executives to differentiate between who a person is and the person’s ideas. A leader who embraces conflict will develop a strong team of people unafraid to express their opinions, ideas, and disagreements, thus giving the leader a better understanding of what team members and groups really feel, not what they think the boss wants to hear. In this type of environment, the staff then become more confident in knowing that they are able to stand up for what they believe in without fear of rejection or reprisal. Lastly, conflict helps to encourage a feedback-oriented culture, where anything can be said and conferred as long as it is done in a tasteful manner.
A culture that embraces constructive conflict is a safe place where questioning is abided from all members of the organization, no matter the position or rank. When employees feel like they can express themselves freely without being shunned or eschewed by the executive, they are more likely to discuss and accept truths, even when they may be difficult to hear. However, keep in mind that as the leader, you must be able to take control of these conversations without avoiding them. Your team is counting on you to be the example. Constructive conflict requires a balance between respect for individuals and respect for their ideas. Without conflict, there can be no resolution.