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By Rod Miller, Bizkinnect Lead Consultant

There is one sure-fire way to improve the health of any team you lead or are a part of: create an atmosphere that allows for conflict.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but believe me, it is absolutely essential for team health. Without an atmosphere that allows for conflict—for disagreements and voicing of disappointment or anger—you may appear to have peace, but it will be a false peace.

The result of false peace is usually passive-aggression. When employees and team members feel they cannot address the real issues at stake and voice disagreement, their disagreements will often come out in more subtle, unhealthy ways.

Here are six steps you can take to create space for healthy conflict within your team.

1. Ask your team to rate the following statements on a scale of one-to-five (1 = always, 5 = never):

  • In our team, we focus on issues, not personalities.
  • In our team, we focus on project success, not personal success, personal image or personal advancement.
  • We are aware of and appreciate personality types within our team.
  • Within our team, we admit our shortcomings and ask for help when we need it.
  • Within our team, we can have disagreements and still maintain good relationships.

2. Ask you team to rate you as the leader on these same questions (1 = always, 5 = never):

  • Our team manager focuses on issues, not personalities.
  • Our team manager focuses on project success, not personal success, personal image or personal advancement.
  • Our team manager is aware of and appreciates personality types within our team.
  • Our team manager admits his/her shortcomings and asks for help when needed.
  • Our team manager can have disagreements with others and still maintain good relationships.
  • I can disagree with my team manager and still maintain a good relationship with him/her.

Based on the results of both surveys, is your team able to have healthy conflict? And just as importantly, is your team able to confront you? Without the ability to have good conflict, your team won’t be able to wholeheartedly engage in achieving your team’s Rallying Cry.

3. Talk about the importance of healthy conflict and set conflict expectations by talking about and modeling effective conflict.

Disagreement does not have to mean the breakdown of relationships. While too little conflict is unhealthy, so is too much conflict or destructive conflict. The standard for behavior should be reflected in your team’s values.

4. Model vulnerability by admitting your shortcomings to your team and asking for help when needed and appropriate.

This is a concept for which instruction, without a lifestyle to back it up, will be useless.

5. Call out destructive behaviour within the team meeting setting and refer back to team values of how to treat each other.

Accountability means holding people to a standard of better behavior. If inappropriate behavior persists over time, consider if an individual’s contribution is worth negating an entire team’s contributions.

6. Help your team to call each other out appropriately when members  are out of alignment with the team’s values.

(For further reading on this subject, see Patrick Lencioni’s book, Five Dysfunctions of a Team.)

Want to learn more about healthy and unhealthy conflict in the workplace? We’ll help you learn how to use these and other organizational health principles to create project success in your workplace in light of organizational changes like a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)- or Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)-implementation project.


Ready to connect?

  • Sign up for the 45-minute webinar, “Conflict and Clarity,” with Bizkinnect’s lead consultant, Rod Miller. In this webinar, Rod shares practical organizational health and change management concepts you can begin to apply today.
  • Would you like a free one-hour consultation? Let’s connect!  We would love to help you as you implement these practices within your own organization.
  • Please note, we now also offer all of our services remotely via video conferencing.
  • If you have any questions, feel free to call us directly.  800-953-8112
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