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Author: Elyse, PMP, CPHIMS
April 19, 2007

As one climbs the professional tree it is important to gain an understanding of when conflict is necessary. Like everything else too much positive or negative conflict can have repercussions.

The concept of positive conflict evolves around Social Darwinism. The strong survive, but the weak do not. In a work environment this concept can result in encouraging strong employees to prevail over the weaker ones. This concept leads to a behavior pattern where employees vigorously argue the point to have the idea adopted by rejecting all other ideas. Another resulting behavior pattern is the intense micromanaging of staff. The micromanagement results from a general belief that to get anything accomplished, people must be continually prodded by managers. Finally in this environment with too much positive conflict, teams never work. The fiercely competitive drive that is developed and nurtured obliterates all collaborative activities – unless it is a survivor scenario where two parties have an agreement against one party. Obviously in this environment, synergy and compromise are not recognized, and people begin to behave according to expectations. It can result in employees not feeling valued and a high turn over rate.

At the other extreme there is the negative perspective of conflict. With this perspective even the passionate discussion about a problem or other minor dispute is viewed as dysfunctional. Conflict is viewed as a waste of time, seemingly inefficient. Conflict is seen as stressful, one cannot add a point of view without having to justify it. Finally with these two behavior patterns, individuals just bunker down and become overly defensive. They just survive like an ostrich does in a defensive situation.

Obviously, too much positive conflict will result with some individuals having a negative view on conflict. Also too much of a negative perspective within an organization will result in a couple of pockets of positive conflict. Therefore a balance is needed to break the cycle. An organization needs conflict to function. However conflict needs to be managed. In one situation conflict may have a very positive affect, however in another it should just not be used. Differences should be expressed and then harness the good from the differences instead of just suppressing the differences. Encouraging and managing conflict in a productive manner stimulates innovations and improves moral for everyone. The result is a high performing team.

Conflict, at the right level, is a healthy and energizing force in an organization. But it must be managed carefully to ensure that it works creatively, and not destructively.

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2 Comments to “Managing Conflict”

So true, so true.

No doubt that what you said is true. however, I was thinking about some readings I made about a french philosopher called Emmanuel Levinas that put forward two ideas.

the first one is the importance of self limitation rthat starts when you see the face of the other. As abstract as it seems seeing the face hints at considering the other one as an equal. This mere shift puts an equal as the recipient of your lmegitimate violence. As freedom, Levinas put that violence should be limited by the genuine respect you have for an equal. the failure of such a thing can be seen through the concept of vendetta

The second thing is that there must be a genuine trust in a positivist vision of justice. Looking back at what positivism is, positive justice is ajustice that proves to be trusted by everyone as a complete and unfaulty system.

The experience of violence and anger must be bounded:
by a trusted system
by a self limitation
to be a genuine experience.

indeed, excess leads to passion, that is a far cry from efficient violence

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