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Embrace Conflict in COVID

Updated: May 22, 2020

As states start removing restrictions, most likely the team you lead or the company you work for will have some difficult decisions to make. This might scare you, as engaging in conflict is something people like to do as much as getting a root canal. But don't go anywhere, your voice is needed in these discussions.

You've been there before. Everyone in the team meeting seems to be in agreement about a proposed decision. Then, just as it was about to close, a colleague raises his voice and expresses an opinion different than popular thought. Your heart rate goes up, your body tenses, and you hope that everyone ignores the idea and the meeting closes.

Yet for some reason the senior leader decides to enter into battle with this brave colleague and suddenly there are multiple raised voices and tension so thick you could cut it with a knife.

If your gut is screaming to you, "Get up and run away," you're like most people. The majority of humans don't like contention. We get uncomfortable when there is conflict and we honestly wish that every would just get along.

But what if that idea of opposition was the next million dollar idea? What if the brave soul exposed a glaring hole in the decision? What if the ensuing discussion resulted in an even better idea, or a whole new idea that was truly a win-win for everyone?

Unfortunately, due to our discomfort with conflict, many of us have such ideas that we leave unspoken. Well, there is not time like the present to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and here's five reasons why:

  1. Avoiding conflict hurts more than helps. When we refuse to share ideas or say things that may cause conflict, we build an artificial harmony within the team. This means that instead of discussing the real issues in the open, we turn to back channel personal attacks, which are far nastier and more harmful than any heated argument over a decision.

  2. Conflict is inevitable. Who do you agree with 100% of the time. My one! So why would we think that we can gather a team of employees together and expect us to all get along? We shouldn't because we are all different, meaning we all see things through a different lens - and that is perfectly OK. Besides, if we were all the same, only one of us would be needed.

  3. Conflict is necessary. Simply put, we can't grow unless we are stretched. Try building your biceps by only using a 16 oz water bottle. It won't happen. You need lots of resistance and conflict is the mental resistance that challenges our ideas in order to get the best idea.

  4. Conflict is the most efficient way of gathering information. Look, we can beat around the bush until we are blue in the face, or we can drop the facade, become vulnerable with our coworkers, and cut the time it takes to make a high quality decision in half. It's your choice!

  5. Conflict creates scar tissue. Conflict often hurts because it cuts into other people's ideas and egos. There is no way around this. We are humans and we cannot detach our emotions from logical decisions. However, working through conflict allows us to strengthen trust one with another and that leaves us stronger as a team.

So, as we resume "normal" work, don't be afraid to raise your voice. Perhaps you've got the best idea for balancing work from home, or how to prioritize limited resources, or what your team/company must do to pivot in these challenging times.

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