By Candy Barone
In many organizations, human resource departments have training programs and classes around how to effectively manage conflict in the workplace. The overall objective, often times, is to mitigate any animosity among employees and to ensure that the overall environment is a “safe” zone. However, most of these programs are designed with the goal to eliminate conflict altogether and to keep the peace among the ranks.
The irony being that without some degree of conflict, people are not given the space or freedom to voice opinions or share new, creative and innovative ideas. Good communication only happens when a degree of healthy conflict exists within an organization.
By playing it “safe” and creating a culture of low conflict, the result is employees then become afraid to speak up for fear that they will be shut down, or fall victim to the infamous “crucial conversation” discussion that inevitably happens when one shares a differing opinion or wants to challenge the status quo. They don’t learn how to hear opposing opinions or to create real solutions that serve the collective whole of the organization.
They shut down, and meetings become increasingly unproductive and meaningless, as a result. Ever hear the phrase, “meetings for the sake of meetings”? Productivity, which is a direct result of the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization, suffers. Hallway conversations end up happening and issues are never fully resolved.
When in reality, the only way a company can grow is to invite and welcome healthy conflict into the organization. Healthy conflict provides an environment where all voices and opinions can be heard, a space where ideas can be generated and encouraged.
Instead of trying to shut conflict down completely, leaders and employees need to be given the opportunity to learn effective communication tools and strategies.
Strategies will help them pull their emotional attachment out of issues being addressed. Tools will help them come to the table with an open mind and desire for understanding. People need the ability to have the difficult conversation, play devil’s advocate and take risks within the organization. If they are too afraid to speak up – to present another way to look at a situation, problem, issue or idea – then an organization risks staying stagnant, or worse, becoming irrelevant.
It always baffles me when I hear executives say, “this is the way we have always done x, y, or z” … as if to say, “this way or the highway.” Language like that immediately shuts down the conduit of communications within in an organization and doesn’t open up any space for employees to feel valued or heard. Business is not stagnant, so why do companies insist of doing and staying just that?
Because the landscape for business is constantly changing, leaders need to be open to that change. Change is the only constant! These days, change is happening faster and faster on a global scale.
When we think about change, there are only two types of change that occur: 1) that which happens to us, and 2) that which happens within us. These principles apply both to individuals within the company, and to the organization itself.
Today, an apparent lack of real, open, insightful and vulnerable communication exists, collectively across the board in business. It translates to gaps that could prove detrimental to the long-term health of most businesses. This creates a real opportunity to make a different level of investment in training, building stronger and more engaged cultures, and developing effective and instrumental communicators.
It only takes a leader with vision to acknowledge this opportunity and to blaze a new path.
Invest in the right kind of training to help create a culture that invites and implements healthy conflict and effective communication. Executive-level leadership buy-in and appropriate accountability measures can and will yield increased ROIs back to the business.
All it takes it a leader with little vision, a little faith, and a little courage to make new, intentional investments to grow one’s business.
Because, remember … ROI is a return on investment, not a return on intention.
Originally featured in The OffBeat Business Magazine July 2016.
Candy Barone, CEO & Founder, You Empowered Strong,
“Your Pull-No-Punches Accountability Powerhouse”
International Speaker, Business Strategist, Executive Coach & Trainer, Best-selling Author.
firstname.lastname@example.org www.youempoweredstrong.com (512) 693-9732