Four Tangible Upsides to Workplace Conflict

Ah, conflict. We try to avoid it, we try to make the best of it, we try to simply deal with it. Although conflict may not be fun, according to a post on Psychology Today, it may actually be beneficial.

It kind of reminds us of broccoli. We try to avoid it, we try to make the best of it, we simply try to deal. And then we realize it’s healthy for us.

In the piece Victor Lipman writes, “Though conflict is usually at least temporarily unpleasant, it’s by no means all bad; in fact it can also be the pathway to something better.” Here are four tangible upsides to workplace conflict… 

1. You learn to embrace conflict instead of avoiding it. Conflict is inevitable, right? As a leader you’ll ultimately have to confront it. He says, “Learning not to avoid conflict but to manage it constructively pays generous dividends – well beyond the business environment.”

2. Dirty laundry gets aired and sometimes comes clean. Conflict isn’t always bad; rather, it forces teams to address issues. Instead of brushing topics aside where resentment can build, it provides an opportunity for open conversations.

3. It can spur innovation. Conflicts can lead to resolution and that is essentially growth. Lipman points out open workplace conflict “produces bursts of activity and increased activity can yield innovative results.”

4. Worst enemies can end up best friends (or at least colleagues who speak to each other). Lipman recalls upon his days as a corporate manager when he noticed conflicts between two people on his team. The solution? He gave them free lunch passes and forced them to dine together!

He recalls, “No one else could be present, so all they could do was talk, face to face, and (hopefully) communicate. How did this work out? I only did it a few times (I came upon the idea in the latter stages of my management career), but the results were generally positive. In these situations conflicts were diminished, and the employees involved became civil colleagues if not exactly ‘bffs.'”