Conflict: Can It Be A Force For Good In The Workplace?

Scott McIver Articles

When we mention the word conflict, negative connotations almost always spring to mind. For example, we might picture two office workers gossiping around the water cooler, siblings arguing over who gets control of the TV remote, or a pair of neighbours threatening to cut down each other’s leylandii.

However, depending on whether it is “constructive” or “destructive”, conflict can also be a good thing. The distinction between the two can be identified through these signs:

• Constructive focuses on the issues at hand – Destructive focuses on people, usually through blame
• Constructive focuses on what will happen in the future – Destructive focuses on what has happened in the past
• Constructive brings people together to resolve it – Destructive polarises and divides

Because of these traits, positive and constructive conflict can have many long-term benefits, especially within a workplace setting:

Identifying Problems
Disputes come in all shapes and sizes. Very often, smaller disputes are indicative of deeper underlying issues, ones that, if left untouched, could cause much more damage further down the line. By addressing the minor conflicts, the underlying issues can be brought to light earlier. These can then be dealt with before they become too ingrained.

Improved Productivity
When conflict is handled well, it allows the whole team to focus on, and carry out, their original jobs. When conflict is resolved early and efficiently, it frees up people that, otherwise, would be involved in dealing with the dispute. In addition, conflict has a habit of distracting others, either through office gossip or being caught up in it as a spectator.

Improved Problem-Solving
The best plans and ideas come from productive discussions that incorporate a wide variety of thoughts and opinions. And, whilst it can be difficult when people disagree with us, it can also be something that we accept and take on board. Furthermore, if they learn to engage and become more confident with disagreements, the team will become more comfortable in raising different viewpoints. These can then contribute to future tasks and projects.

Strengthens Working Relationships
If conflict is actively avoided and stigmatised, it can lead to a lot of misunderstandings and undermining between colleagues. However, if everyone feels comfortable raising their own opinions without fear of any resulting friction, these views can then be heard and respected by the whole team. This can develop many important aspects of teamwork, including communication, honesty, and trust between colleagues.

When looking at different types of conflict, it is most important to know where the line between positive and negative is, as well as when to act, and when to encourage or discourage how something is being handled.

Here at UK Mediation, we have a wide range of services and training options that can help you do exactly that.

For example, our five-day accredited training course, the Interpersonal Mediation Practitioner’s Certificate (IMPC), can help you to identify different types and styles of conflict, as well as accrediting you as a mediator to deal with any unnecessary disputes.

In addition, our range of in-house training options can also serve the same purpose, ranging from one-day short courses to the above-mentioned five-day course. These can help you incorporate conflict resolution skills into your organisation, as well as helping you to introduce positive and constructive conversations.

And, of course, we also have expert mediators on hand to deal with your workplace disputes confidentially and impartially. We can usually get someone out to you within two weeks, meaning disputes aren’t left to fester and get worse.

When all is said and done, conflict is a common part of any organisation, as well as life in general. Therefore, it is important not to tar all disagreements with the same brush – you may well be missing out on invaluable benefits that could actually help your organisation in the long run!

Train to become an accredited mediator with our Interpersonal Mediation Practitioner’s Certificate
Find out more about our tailored in-house training courses
Use one of our highly-skilled and experienced mediators to resolve your dispute
Register for our free monthly webinars, including next month’s ‘Team Facilitation