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Is Conflict at Work Always a Bad Thing?

Is conflict at work always a bad thing?

Here’s my take: the absence of conflict on a team might, just might, be an indication that you have a dysfunctional team, for the simple reason that the absence of any conflict may indicate that people aren’t comfortable enough to bring up the proverbial elephant in the room. It might indicate that people are acquiescing to the demands of a tyrannical leader. An absence of conflict might suggest that ideas aren’t being given a fair hearing or vigorously debated.

An absence of conflict can also lead to more stress in the long run, as important issues that need discussing get swept under the rug.

Of course I’m not advocating working in a toxic environment where colleagues are stabbing each other in the front and where bullying or even just rude behavior is tolerated. There are all kinds of bad conflict that we should work to avoid.

So all I’m suggesting is that we need to ensure that we aren’t working in a group think environment, where people are more concerned about maintaining harmony than they are with having a serious debate about the issues.

If you are going to grow your business or take your workpalce to the next level, then serious, healthy debate and is not only going to happen, it has to happen. It should be encouraged. But you need to make sure those debates are respectful.  Focus on brainstorming, not blame-storming.  Be hard on the ideas, but respectful and sensitive with each other.

Michael Kerr, September 2011,

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