Is Conflict at Work Ever a Good Thing?

Many people assume that conflict in the workplace is always bad. But I think there are times when conflict is good—because if everybody always has the same opinion about everything, somebody’s not needed around here!

I love to gather a team around me where people have different opinions and feel free to disagree with each other about things. Why?  Because in this way, one plus one can equal about ten, if people share different points of view. One of my favorite phrases is “No one of us is as smart as all of us” and that especially rings true when you have people around you who aren’t afraid to give you their opinion on something. Everyone can work together for the greater good. So it’s healthy to encourage a little conflict or difference of opinion at work, as long as it’s constructive.

If some people on your team have personality conflicts and are just causing trouble and drama, that’s a different story. That’s a problem you may need to deal with as a leader. But generally speaking, if you encourage different opinions, you can learn what everyone is thinking and work out the best decision for the team as a whole. You don’t want a bunch of “yes” people around you or it may lead you down the wrong road.

My father, who was an admiral in the navy, used to tell me, “Ken, if you don’t hear complaining from your people, watch out because it means there’s going to be a mutiny!”  If you aren’t hearing about concerns and conflicts, it may be because your people have cut you off from the channels of communication. You need to know about those things and encourage that kind of sharing. Let your people know that they can have a different opinion and still survive around you, because you are open to hearing their ideas. It will benefit your team and, ultimately, your entire organization.

Categories: Conflict, Feedback, Workplace Culture | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Is Conflict at Work Ever a Good Thing?

  1. The positive type of conflict is called “cognitive” and the destructive type is called “affective” conflict. We have a post that describes the difference,

  2. Great article Ken, a key competency for great leaders is encouraging and stimulating open communication. Value and celebrate the differences in people and their views/ideas and ensure that equal respect is given for all opinions.

  3. Pingback: Is Conflict at Work Ever a Good Thing? « Become A Leader

  4. Afsane.Narimisa

    Thanks for your article.
    As all of us know Variety is the Spice of Life otherwise life would be monotonus and no one likes that, so welcome opposites as often as possible.

  5. Afsane.Narimisa

    May be its better to congratulate any conflicts at work place.

  6. Yes,very true,Ken.People are afraid to differ and give their solid opinion on what they feel.While giving their opinion,one has to be fair as well as firm .

    Fairness of opinion is a must and one must always not be firm in their views.

  7. A great thought provoker. I love the quote from your father that “if you don’t hear complaining from your people, watch out because it means there’s going to be a mutiny! If you aren’t hearing about concerns and conflicts, it may be because your people have cut you off from the channels of communication”. This is so true. Your other point about personality conflicts and those just causing trouble is just as true. I work with an organization who had up until recently a ‘trouble maker’. His conflict over the last 2 years has manifested itself into running down of management and organization, other colleagues, and the ‘bigging up’ of himself. His heart was in the right place and he meant well a lot of the time, but his communication skills prevented him from communicating effectively. He spoke through the chip on his shoulder and was vindictive in his approach. He and the company have now parted ways and the difference in the team is remarkable. The whole team is less stressful, more motivated and simply happier in their work. The bully has been removed.

    -Neville Beardsmore (Chapelfields Associates Ltd)

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