Conflict Among Team Members Can Lead to Better Results

Don't fear workplace disagreements. Instead frankly discuss the differences. Let all be heard. Work it through. The company can grow from it.

learn more about Sherrie Campbell

By Sherrie Campbell Originally published Oct 30, 2014

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It turns out conflict isn't always bad. In fact, psychologically it can be extremely positive, especially in a team environment. In reality, conflict exists as a natural and inevitable part of every relationship.

And the only way to break free of a negative dynamic within a team is to confront it.

Because most people fear conflict, team members engage in repressing their anger and frustration, avoid a person or people threatening the common ground or begin to placate these people in an effort to make tensions dissipate.

These commonly used psychological strategies can lead to the ruin of the cohesiveness of the team due to frustration on the part of individual members. Instead of internalizing or personalizing a bad situation, team members must to learn to manage conflict by externalizing it and facing the issues. This is the only way out. Here are guidelines for doing so:

Related: Great CEOs Deal With 'Elephants' First

1. Inspiring adaptability.

Friction between colleagues arises when individual ideas or plans end up diverging from what's happening in reality. This type of friction between co-workers is inevitable in business settings.

To get through friction, each member of a team has to be able to keep up with change and adapt to the unexpected. When each person's mind becomes more flexible, members of the team gain the ability to focus on the details of the conflict and forget the rigidity of previous nonworking ideas and circumstances.

2. Enhancing goal attainment.

As team members are forced to work through disagreements, they can make measureable progress toward meeting sought-after goals. This holds true for project-specific goals as well larger corporate objectives.

Movement toward successful goal attainment is demonstrated when members of a team show willingness to collaborate together to reach a mutually beneficial end result. As a team works through problems, each member grows individually, thereby strengthening the team's potential.

Related: The Art of Having a Productive Argument

3. Championing commitment.

Working through conflict with co-workers provides a forus for fusing the group. Psychologically, people are more likely to buy in to the result of decision if they were allowed to be an integral part of the decision-making process.

In this way, conflict provides each person a voice that's an essential component of effective teamwork. Feeling heard and important are key psychological factors linked to inspiring and motivating each member to commit to an objective.

4. Improving productivity.

With each individual being part of the effort to resolve conflict and reach agreement, members of a work group can become more productive. Instead of spending time dwelling on the fact that a lack of agreement exists, taking steps to find a resolution gets co-workers focused on actions that can lead to greater productivity.

The more psychologically involved each member feels, the more movement can be made toward getting through and past the conflict that previously held back the team from meeting objectives.

5. Embracing constructive change.

When conflicts are ignored or avoided rather than handled in a productive way, things will stay the same or worsen. When colleagues express their differences and work through them, the stage is set for positive change to occur within the group.

Keeping things peaceful might be the path of least resistance, but when members of a team persevere through a struggle and come out better on the other side, the conflict has been worth it. When each person feels like he or she is a significant part of the team, this creates the change necessary to win. Each win is then a collectively a shared experience, increasing trust and confidence among team members.

6. Creating resolution.

Constructive conflict management leads to the resolution of problems that naturally arise when people with different goals, opinions and attitudes work together. Only through acknowledging and being open about differences and engaging in practical communication can problems be surpassed.

Communication is everything when it comes to finding a resolution and individuals must learn to manage conflict in order to harness and improve the team's potential. When constructive communication occurs, it inspires team members to be part of a larger purpose, motivating each person toward trying to resolve problems.

7. Generating new ideas.

Equal opportunity does not mean everyone is at the same level in a team. Equal opportunity means each person has the same opportunity to express a unique opinion. It's out of this diversification that new ideas arise.

If everyone agreed all the time, there would be no reason to consider different perspectives or look for new ways to handle difficult situations. The best ideas often arise out of great conflict. Conflict generates creativity in the problem-solving process, which has to occur in order to reach a mutually beneficial agreement among colleagues.

The goal of any team is for team members to work together in an effort to meet larger and specific goals. Because each member of a team is a unique individual (albeit some are harder to work with than others), it's important for the group experience to humble bullies and lift up the more fearful counterparts. In this way, each individual grows, putting the team in an unbeatable position to attain its overall objectives. A team is only as strong as its individual members. And conflict is what builds the character of the team and its individuals.

Related: Are You Getting Your Money's Worth From Disagreements?

Sherrie Campbell

Psychologist, Author, Speaker

Sherrie Campbell is a psychologist in Yorba Linda, Calif., with two decades of clinical training and experience in providing counseling and psychotherapy services. She is the author of Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person. Her new book, Success Equations: A Path to an Emotionally Wealthy Life, is available for pre-order.

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