Updated: Jun 2, 2022
Yelling, kicking, screaming, hair pulling, and slapping are all normal with Kangaroos or an MMA fight. They are not normal behavior for an office disagreement. Your workplace should provide a safe space for disagreements to take place. Employees and leaders should be able to engage in a peaceful discussion and resolution. Each side doesn’t have to come away happy with the resolution but each party needs to agree on the outcome. That process is called productive conflict. Productive conflict, is that even a thing?
Yes, productive conflict actually exists and happens when people can sit down and discuss their disagreement without insulting, berating, or using sarcasm. If any of these negative characteristics are present, it is not productive conflict. To illustrate an example of how conflict can be productive, let's follow four workplace employees who need to hash out the details about a new policy rolling out which may be unfavorable to some of them. The four colleagues are Issac, Sarah, Carson, & Daphne.
As we observe them we’ll be able to see how each one of them comes to the conversation. As people, we always come with our own agenda, prejudices, goals, and baggage. The key to productive conflict is how to use all of those to the advantage of the team and its solution.
What each of the four focuses on in conflict
In this conversation Isaac often talks about emotions and how things feel. Sarah also talks about feelings and wants to check in on the group's consensus. Carson wants to keep tabs on how it will logistically work and if people are being treated fairly. Daphne also wants to know how it will work, but is very focused on coming out on top in the end. If we as a team are able to understand what each is concerned about we can have a productive meeting and work towards talking about their concerns.
How can our personalities derail productive conflict
Daphne can become impatient and not want to stand down to her colleagues. Isaac can often talk over others and can make personal attacks on them. Sarah can withdraw and let issues boil under her skin. Carson can become defensive and often over analyzes the situation. As an observer we can see where pitfalls could start to trip up a peaceful discussion. But, when we are the people in the meeting it is harder to see from the outside. Knowing this crucial information about our team will help prevent this topic from becoming a kangaroo fight.
What can be done to keep the meeting progressing
In order for Sarah to remain a productive member of the team it’s important that the others treat her with sincerity and not overpower her. Carson will remain engaged when you use logic to make your point and give him time to consider it. Daphne will continue to cooperate when she’s not involved in a power struggle and people are willing to compromise. Issac likes to be engaged informally and given the opportunity to verbalize his thoughts.
The Roadmap to successful meetings
What would our office be like if we had notes about our colleagues to help us maneuver during conflict? The great thing is we can have that information. We all have personality traits that we identify with and we can learn about those around us. The DiSC personality assessment is a tool we can use to learn about each person’s traits. Once we have this information about our colleagues we can teach them how to engage with everyone in productive conflict. Personalized Coaching Solutions does just that. I will engage your team in coaching sessions and together we will learn about your team and help you develop into a more cohesive team that can handle conflict without standing on your hind legs and kicking your teammate.
Check out my youtube channel for some more hilarious examples of office pitfalls.