Learning to Embrace Conflict

Growing up I avoided conflict in absolutely every way I could. I associated it with anger, disapproval, isolation and ultimately it felt like a dead-end street. However, as I married into a family and have been fortunate to be a part of workplaces that often do conflict well, my eyes have been opened to the startling reality that conflict done well is good and healthy and quite literally something to be embraced rather than avoided.

In a January 2018 article of the Harvard Business Review, Amy Gallo, makes the compelling case that disagreements “are an inevitable, normal, and healthy part of relating to other people,” and asserts that when they are done well, disagreements actually have several positive outcomes. She discussed the following outcomes in the article which provide some important food for thought:

- Better Work Outcomes – The “creative friction” of disagreements will often lead to new ideas and better solutions. While conflict is uncomfortable, it is the “source of true innovation and also a critical process in identifying and mitigating risks.”

- Opportunities to Learn and Grow – The discomfort of someone challenging your ideas, provides opportunities to listen, learn, incorporate feedback, and grow both professionally and personally.

- Improved Relationships – Conflict affords the opportunity to grow in relationships, allowing you to grow in understanding about what matters to those around you as well as their work styles.

- Higher Job Satisfaction – Research supports that there is a higher likelihood you will be happier at your job when you don’t fear constructive disagreement about issues at work.

- A More Inclusive Work Environment – Gallo asserts, “If you want to have diversity and inclusion in your organization, you have to be prepared to disagree” and that in a “well-run diverse team, substantive disagreements do not need to become personal.”

While I can’t say I LOVE conflict or that it has become easy for me to wade into tough conversations, I can say that it is a muscle I have intentionally sought to strengthen that makes me a better employee, wife, mother, daughter, and community member. I am learning (albeit slowly) to embrace it has a necessary and helpful part of the journey of professional and personal growth.

How do you view conflict? What are the disagreements you face this week? How will you work toward positive outcomes in the disagreements before you as you work with your employees, coworkers, and clients?

About the Author
Hilary Tricerri is a consultant with Morrison, working primarily in our Grants practice. To get in touch with Hilary, please find contact information for Morrison here.


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