Avoiding Conflict? Think Again!

Are you avoiding conflict at work in favor of perceived peace? Is your culture supportive of dealing with conflict?

avoiding conflict think again

Does someone need to be called out for consistently disregarding prior agreements, yet everyone avoids the problem, because the person in question is in a position of power?   Is there repeated poor performance from a group of individuals that is regularly overlooked?   Are there people who prefer to support their own agenda, while compromising the success of a team, without any repercussions?  Those are just a few examples how conflict is avoided in favor of preventing a potentially difficult or emotionally charged situation with a person or group of individuals.  The impact of such behavior on the greater team is often not considered.  If conflict with a person or part of a team is avoided, it sends a message to the greater team that the bad behavior is acceptable, when in fact that very conduct often undermines team efforts.

If avoidance of conflict becomes the defacto management style, it won’t be long before morale and engagement are at risk in your organization.  When you factor in increased stress and eventual turnover, then suddenly ‘looking the other way’ becomes a very costly dysfunction.

We need to assume that conflict is unavoidable when you bring diverse people together, while expecting them to perform their jobs in often stressful situations.  That means that everyone needs to be able to deal with conflict productively.

Long-term and permanent improvements require the conscious development of your organizational culture to handle conflict naturally.

  • Establish principles and values that guide conduct and decision-making.   Over time, this will drive improved interactions, collaboration and performance.
  • Invite constructive criticism on all levels to foster healthy debate.  This will get issues in the open as opposed to letting them fester and hurt team dynamics.
  • Teams win or lose as one, and every interaction either supports or hinders project team performance. Maintaining team accountability is the key to unite the team further.

Until your culture is well developed to handle conflict easily, apply these general rules for short term solutions:

  • Address issues in a timely manner, generally on the spot. If you need to delay for legitimate reasons, put the discussion on your schedule at your earliest opportunity.
  • Choose facts over emotions.  Explain the big picture and how the issue impacts the team or the project.
  • Don’t solve all problems yourself.  Depending on the situation, you can task the team to come up with a solution.  Engaging in healthy debate will strengthen team dynamics over time.

What is your experience with addressing hidden conflict productively?


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