Let’s be honest, running into some sort of conflict at work is unavoidable.
But just because the word “conflict” has generally negative connotations, doesn’t mean all conflict = bad. Conflict, in the right context and approached in the right way, can benefit you as an individual and also your fellow team members so that you can all come out better separately and as a team.
Don’t just take our word for it either: even the most experienced human resource experts would fully support that not all workplace conflict is negative and that some can have a truly positive impact on your own relationships, approach and problems.
Learning more about conflict at work and how it can actually help you cope, collaborate, and become a better employee (and human being!):
5 ways conflict at work can be healthy (and beneficial):
You get to practice working through discomfort
“Can’t we all just get along?” Nope, not really. Your workplace brings together a diverse group of personality types and styles and forces you to hang out for many many hours a week. The downside is that conflict is inevitable and you’re bound to feel the discomfort of disagreeing with someone and the coinciding tension in the air when disagreements and conflict go unresolved.
The big upside, however, is that you can work on your coping and collaborative skills as you tackle situations of conflict head on. The key is that you actually do tackle those problems though, rather than avoid them and let them fester. It’s not always going to be fun, but in order for you to meet specific deadlines or project goals (and keep your sanity!) you and your team members all have to learn to work through whatever the source of the conflict so that you can all do your best work.
The more instances of conflict you work though with your coworkers, the better you’ll get at spotting them, the more you’ll learn about one another, and the faster you’ll get at working together to resolve them. A team with some healthy differences can learn to air them, communicate them more clearly, and overcome them more seamlessly over time.
Conflict brings new ideas
Ever had that annoying friend or coworker who agrees with EVERYTHING? Sure, they may be pleasant to deal with to some extent, but dealing with a human echo chamber doesn’t help anyone and also prevents growth. Because when everyone agrees on the same approach or the same way of solving a problem, you get lots of harmony, but not much innovation.
So, by being open to a variety of voices and points of view at work, you make room for new ideas and can come up with creative solutions to problems… and that’s exactly what can come out of situations of conflict at work if you let it. Bottom line is that when you keep an open mind, conflict can be a major source of productivity and creativity by being the bringer of new ideas.
Keep things moving forward
Conflict in the workplace (or the avoidance of it!) often drags things out, making even a minor tasks and everyday work activities seem to last forever; and the longer you try to avoid that conflict, the worse everything gets.
For instance, imagine yourself in a situation where no one is willing to speak up and shut down a colleague who has been droning on for hours about their point of view (or worse, that awful joke they seem to love). What happens is that everyone in the workplace gets stuck in this awkward moment in time where everyone is annoyed and less productive, all for the sake of not causing any conflict.
However, if you or someone were to just say “enough” and find a way to approach your colleague in a healthy, non-aggressive way, you might find that the potential situation of conflict is easier to resolve than you thought. Being open to and proactive to situations of conflict in this way keeps things moving forward, for you, the other person, and everyone on your team.
It brings peace of mind
In some cases, creating strife or conflict in the workplace is actually your only answer to resolving an ongoing issue that prevents a better work life.
For instance, feeling undermined by someone, not agreeing with a decision that has a big impact on you, or otherwise being negatively impacted by someone in the workplace in a wrongful or unfair way – these are all instances that deserve being openly addressed, despite the fact that they’re pretty much certain to cause some level of conflict amongst coworkers.
On the one hand, when you let these things go unaddressed, it’s not uncommon to find yourself dreading work because there could be strife, not wanting to get out of bed in the morning because the idea of conflict stresses you out or simply feeling on edge at work worrying about what will happen. Letting these feelings linger and you’re well on your way to being stuck in a terrible headspace (or even an ulcer or migraine!).
But on the other hand, when you go ahead and tackle the issue, the opposite happens: everyone is able to be transparent about their feelings and find a solution to the workplace conflict together.
Airing out an issue like one of the above (or any other issue that might cause conflict at work) may seem overwhelming and scary, but it also means you get to move on after the conflict is over with a sense of closure and peace of mind.
We all have to face conflict eventually and doing so head on in a positive way can have a positive impact on your own stress levels — it’s also a key part of being a productive and responsible adult. Conflict done right can make your day run more smoothly and ensure that you don’t dread heading into work each morning. Learning more about the positive impact of conflict can help you approach it in the right way and allows you to benefit in unexpected ways.