My recent blog posts have been about team building and last week I wrote about integrity, trust, and allowing dissent. The team-building theme continues this week and revolves around a word that can make people cringe: conflict.
When a person hears the word conflict, they may conjure up an image in their mind like the photo showing a World War I United States Marine engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a German soldier. Let’s briefly look at two types of conflict that arise in our lives.
Unhealthy Team Conflict
The heading above is the name of a chapter in my book, The Furnace of Leadership Development1. At lunch this past Sunday, our friend described a situation at her place of employment involving team members that neglect essential duties. Everyone works remotely and compounding the problem is the fact that the owners and company leadership are in Europe; a seven-hour time difference.
For the work process to flow efficiently, employees must complete and document certain steps so the next person can continue with the work. This is not happening, creating a situation where other people carry the load for the ones who are not doing their job. When our friend brings this to the attention of the other team member, that individual runs to her boss and says, “She doesn’t trust me! She doesn’t think I know how to do my job!” It is not a matter of job knowledge; it is a matter of responsibility and accountability.
Although our friend does the right thing by taking her concern to the other person, the issue escalates to higher levels, supervisors ignore the problem, and the cycle repeats itself. Failing to address the issue not only reinforces bad behavior, but it also creates frustration for employees and generates apathy amongst the workers.
Healthy Team Conflict
How should we manage unhealthy team conflict? The answer is simple, and the solution begins with the courage to confront and resolve problems in a mature fashion. We must be responsible individuals holding ourselves accountable for our actions and behaviors. When someone comes to us expressing a concern, we should be secure enough to listen and respond appropriately. Tossing around statements such as, “She doesn’t think I know how to do my job,” is nothing more than a smokescreen attempting to divert attention from the problem at hand.
Communicating openly with one another allows problems to be managed at the lowest possible level, eliminating the need to escalate the situation to someone higher in the supervisory chain. You may be thinking, “Sure Davis! Easy for you to say! You don’t know Valerie the Vulture or Stab You in the Back Sam!” Oh yes, I know them and their cousins, and I can help you hone your personal and organizational communications skills to have healthy conflict and not hand-to-hand combat. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit my website at www.impactusleadership.com to see the solutions I offer.
1Rick Davis, The Furnace of Leadership Development (Loveland, CO: Java House Publishing, 2019), 55.