Many people attempt to avoid conflict. I understand. It doesn’t necessarily feel good. Often it comes with a sense of discomfort. So conflict avoidance is certainly more convenient. While a part of me still senses discomfort when it comes to conflict, overall I learned to embrace and seek it out in fact. Here’s what helps me with this.
Groups of people, and teams in particular are bound to experience conflict. Everyone has their own perception of reality. Everyone has a different experience. Therefore we are bound to experience differences of opinion. In fact that’s a good thing. I rather like the following quote I came across some time ago.“Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” - Walter Lippmann Click To Tweet
Perhaps conflict is often misunderstood as violence. Naturally we don’t want any violence at our place of work (fighting related occupations possible excepted).
Maybe conflict is perceived as being personal. Again, in our place of work it ought not be personal. We collaborate in our roles, and our roles belong to the organisation. We just happen to fill them.
This is the first mental reframe that I would like to share. It is one that I learned from Organisation & Relationship Systems Coaching. In fact it is one of its 5 key principles. The role belongs to the system; the system being the organisation.
This should offer a level of separation between the individual and the work, helping to make things less personal.
By reminding ourselves that the conflict is not personal, it is merely a different perspective of two different roles. Each of them are partially right. As a result we can enable the progress trying to happen.
Another aspect coming out of Organisation & Relationship Systems Coaching is that any conflict can be seen as the team/organisation/system trying to change in some way. While it sometimes might take a bit of facilitation or coaching, usually a team/organisation/system will self-correct.
Conflict and friction are signs that something is not quite right and we have an opportunity to make progress on a system level to make way for something better.
So by defaulting to conflict avoidance we’re essentially depriving the system of the opportunity to progress. In such a mode we’re essentially stonewalling the progress trying to happen.
In conclusion, with these simple shifts can assume a position that directs the force of improvement back into the team/organisation/system, allowing it to progress to its next step.
What are your thoughts on this? If you prefer to share privately, feel free to message me through the site.
A leadership team development specialist, International Coach Federation - Professional Certified Coach, with global product management experience since 2000, employing Agile & Lean since 2010, Georg Fasching helps digital creative agencies’ leadership teams delight their clients, fulfil their people, and improve their prosperity.