We often fear conflict in the workplace because we’ve experienced the negative impact of poorly handled difficult situations.
When not handled well, conflict can absolutely take a heavy toll on individuals, teams, organizations, and even on our friends and family outside of the workplace. And it can result in lost time and energy, damaged relationships, and decreased productivity.
But if we set aside our past experiences for just a moment and take a look at a definition of conflict, it’s actually quite neutral:
Conflict can be defined as a real or perceived difference between what is important to one person and what is important to someone else.
At work and in our lives, we cannot help but encounter differences in priorities, approaches, perceptions, and beliefs every day. However, conflict itself is not inherently good or bad, it’s the way that it’s handled that makes all the difference.
When handled well, conflict can actually have some very positive benefits, such as the development of new and creative solutions, better communication, and healthier relationships.
The question then becomes, how can we maximize the benefits of conflict in the workplace and minimize its negative impacts?
Mindset Eats Strategy for Breakfast When It Comes to Conflict
The most important place to start is your own mindset. As the saying goes, whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right.
If you believe that conflict is bad, then when a conflict occurs you’ll be more likely to react from a fear-based perspective – i.e., in fight, flight, or freeze-mode. And your reaction will have an impact on how others respond to you. In essence, “When you’re scared, you’re scary.” (Anonymous) This type of interaction will probably result in negative outcomes, which will then reinforce your belief that conflict is bad.
On the other hand, if you believe that conflict is normal and an opportunity for something positive to emerge, you’ll be more likely to respond in a way that opens up communication – i.e., through personal reflection and dialogue. And this response will have a different impact (a more positive one) on the other people involved. This will increase the chances of there being a positive outcome to the situation and will reinforce your belief that conflict is normal and an opportunity.
Whether we like it or not, conflict will occur in our lives. It’s kind of like death and taxes. So, given that it’s inevitable, it’s important for us to examine how we think of conflict so that we can view it in a way that will help create the outcomes we want.
Mindset is one of the first pieces that I work on with clients in my Coaching Program. Shifting out of those hard-wired fight, flight, and freeze reactions takes commitment, patience, and effort; however, once this piece starts to fall into place, the conflict resolution strategies that we cover in the program become exponentially more effective!
So take a moment and check your mindset.
- How do you currently view conflict?
- How would you like to think about conflict?
- How can you get into this mindset the next time you encounter a difficult situation in the workplace?
Wishing you happy reflections :)