Conflict is usually considered a bad thing, and many people work to avoid it. But productive conflict can be a valuable tool for teams to embrace to make them better.
Productive Conflict isn’t Hostile or Negative
When you hear the word “conflict” you may instinctively think of negative interactions in which one or more people are frustrated, angry, or even aggressive.
Many people hear the term “conflict” and assume the worst.
Conflict on teams can cause people to immediately feel threatened, intimidated, or anxious.
But there are ways to use conflict as a valuable tool. When done right, productive conflict has multiple benefits to a team.
Some people even enjoy productive conflict as a helpful tool to get deeper understanding and different perspectives.
Productive Conflict Requires the Right Mindset
I’ve never been one to feel intimidated by respectful, challenging discussion. I’m naturally curious and love a good exploration of various viewpoints and opinions.
I’ve been surprised to learn that some people believe challenging their ideas is an attack on them personally. That’s unfortunate, because it shuts down potentially valuable discussion and exchange of ideas.
If the idea of conflict – carried out respectfully – still makes you uneasy, read over this list of ways it can be extremely valuable to you and your team.
10 Ways that Productive Conflict can be good for your team
These 10 benefits of healthy conflict show how it can help your team. When used respectfully with positive intent, healthy conflict can do the following:
1. Provide different perspectives.
Using respectful, productive conflict encourages team members to share ideas openly. This encourages a healthy exchange of ideas and opinions. And having everyone share different opinions helps others see things from different perspectives.
Participants can get a new or different view of the topic at hand. It expands the team’s understanding of all perspectives in a way that’s healthy and beneficial.
2. Inspire creativity.
Engaging in healthy conflict can be stimulating and encourage others to think about things in different ways. Teams who know how to use and are comfortable with productive conflict can challenge one-another’s assumptions to think outside of the box and strive for new ideas.
This helps teams and companies be more innovative and find new ways of doing things.
3. Help combat “group think”.
Teams who only agree with the strongest voice in the room don’t open themselves to exploring new ideas or seeing things from all angles.
Instead, they wind up with the same ideas they’ve always had.
By challenging one another, being willing to speak up and share, and even encouraging different opinions, the team will generate more options and likely new ideas as a result.
4. Help teams find solutions to big challenges.
When using productive conflict and sharing ideas respectfully and openly, teams put more brainpower toward solving problems. Team members can contribute different ideas and provide valuable insight to address challenges. They create more options for solutions and likely generate better solutions since they have greater collaboration among team members.
- More on Problem-solving: 7 Problem-Solving Steps to Conquer Even the Toughest Problems
5. Allow everyone to feel heard.
Using productive conflict allows team members to speak up and share their ideas, opinions, and concerns without fear of
- More on communication skills: 5 Styles of Effective Listening That Will Make You Smarter
6. Increase buy-in
When team members participate in tough decisions, they’re more likely to feel agreeable to the outcome. Even if the final outcome isn’t what they’d originally wanted.
Because they were a part of respectful dialogue, they can come away having a fuller understanding of the situation. And because they participated, they’re more likely to support the outcome.
- More on getting support and buy-in for your projects: 5 Critical Reasons the Best Project Managers are in Sales & Marketing, Too
7. Focus on real issues.
Productive conflict focuses on real issues. Rather than resorting to blame, denial, or derailing the discussion to another topic, productive conflict keeps the focus on the real issue at hand.
This can be difficult for those not accustomed to this type of communication.
But by staying focused on the topic, the team continues to work through it to
- More on problem-solving: 5 Whys Root Cause Analysis: a Problem-Solving Tool to Get to the Root of the Problem
8. Build respect and trust.
Unproductive conflict damages relationships. Productive conflict, on the other hand, strengthens them.
Rather than creating feelings of anger among people, productive conflict builds respect and trust. Communicating openly fosters deeper understanding and respect. Knowing that your peers are listening respectfully for deeper understanding generates feelings of trust. Team members value one another more. They have more respect for different opinions across the team and can see value in the team’s diversity.
- More on how to build rapport and trust: 5 Ways to Instantly Build Rapport for Increased Trust and Improved Relationships
9. Model productive behavior.
Most of us grow up understanding unproductive conflict. It’s easy to fall into that type of communication style.
Defensiveness and blame are human nature.
Using productive conflict takes effort. But by using productive conflict, team members model much healthier ways of communicating. And this positively impacts your team’s culture.
Over time, you can normalize this type of communication and the team will come to expect this style of communication. They may even begin to hold one another accountable to maintain this respectful communication.
- More on how to communicate in healthy, respectful ways: 20 Easy-to-Use Assertive Communication Skills for Confidence and Respect
10. Move teams forward.
Avoiding conflict can keep people and teams stuck. If there are issues that need to be addressed, and instead they’re avoided, nothing gets better. Things stay the same. Issues can stagnate or even get worse.
By engaging in productive conflict, teams can address those issues head-on, work through them, and come out far ahead.
Those teams who use productive conflict are more likely to work together through tough situations. Rather than ignoring issues, they know how to come together to address them respectfully and move forward.
- More on how to increasing your team’s motivation: 15 Ways to Increase Team Motivation to Get the Best from Your Team
If you find that your team needs a push in any of the areas above, don’t be afraid to allow for healthy conflict.
Be sure to keep it respectful and you’ll see the benefits.