When you fear conflict with one of your teammates, you are holding yourself back from growing! I know that conflict can be taboo. It is, however, unavoidable to become a killer team! Productive conflicts help your team move forward!
If it seems too risky to have a conflict with one of your teammates, fearing you are interpreted as destructive or critical. Your team is probably lacking trust. It would be best to focus on trust before creating productive conflict. Learn how to build trust in your team.
What kind of conflict are we looking for?
When we think about a conflict, we think of it as something negative. It surely can be! We are not looking for destructive fighting and calling each other names.
The kind of conflict we are looking for is more productive. We are looking for passionate debates based on concepts and ideas. Still, as an outsider, it can look like an unproductive discussion, as productive conflicts can still be passionate, emotional, and frustrating.
Why do we avoid conflict?
We avoid conflicts because it makes us uncomfortable. We suffer from confrontation anxiety. We don't want to hurt our teammates' feelings. But it is dangerous for your team because frustrations build up, which builds tension.
Imagine the following situation. What would you prefer?
Robert does not like your comment that the budget for marketing is too tight. He answers with the following:
A. Maybe you should use your brain more when thinking about marketing campaigns.
B. How is this possible? Every quarter you want more money for marketing. Is the marketing even working? I feel like this money can be allocated better.
In both situations, you are going into conflict. But you probably prefer response B.
It is not fun trying to make your point about why they should spend more money on marketing. But you are discussing an important issue and therefore being productive. After this conflict, you will probably feel better than Robert would"ve responded with A.
Techniques to embrace productive conflicts
Having difficult conversations makes me uncomfortable. For me, the most important thing is that I know that a productive conflict is not something to avoid.
Here are some tips for embracing productive conflicts.
Take a few deep breaths
You feel your hard race when you go into conflict. You get uncomfortable and annoyed. We want to go into conflict avoidance mode.
When these emotions rise, you are one step closer to resolving the conflict. You just felt the fear of conflict.
Now, take a few deep breaths and embrace your negative emotions. After a few inhales and exhales, put these emotions to the side. Try staying calm. Feel confident! If you'd avoid conflict, what would be the outcome?
I can tell you what will happen. You keep all of the emotions building up. A minor issue could become a big one for you.
You need to have this difficult conversation. Don't let your general fears lead you away from the confrontation.
When teams avoid sensitive topics, they are holding themselves back from growing. When you use mining, someone in the group picks up the role of 'miner of conflict'.
This person sheds light on sensitive topics and buried disagreements. They must have the courage and confidence to call out sensitive issues and force their teammates to work through them.
It requires the team to stay objective and commit to staying on the conflict until it is resolved.
Real time permission
Team members should coach each other when discussing sensitive topics to avoid retreating from a healthy debate.
An effective way of doing this is to recognize when people in conflict are becoming uncomfortable with the level of discord and remind them that what they are doing is necessary.
As simple as it may sound, it is an effective tool for draining the tension from the debate and giving the participants the confidence to continue.
When the discussion or meeting has ended, remind the participants that what they did was a good thing that they had this conflict and that it is not something to avoid in the future.
Having healthy conflicts is tough. But you are all individuals with different thought processes. As a team, you need to align to move forward, and having productive conflicts helps you do that!
When you have more productive conflicts, you will become more comfortable with them, and conflicts will be resolved faster and faster.