I started my career in the conflict resolution field, so conflict has always been on my radar, even as my work switched to workplace culture over the years. And while I may be that guy with the conflict hammer that thinks everything looks like a conflict nail, I have to say, I think there is some evidence on my side that supports a heightened focus on conflict, particularly in organizations. In other words, if you’re not paying attention to conflict inside your organization, you should. Why?
Because conflict touches everything. When you lack the capacity to handle conflict internally, here’s what happens:
- It makes your senior management team less effective
- It makes it harder for people in different departments to collaborate.
- It contributes to deadlines being missed (when people won’t confront each other)
- It causes your best people to start looking for work elsewhere
- It hurts your diversity efforts (there is no difference without conflict)
- It hurts your innovation efforts (avoiding conflict = doing it the way we’ve always done it)
- It keeps you from learning new things
- It makes you less agile
- It stifles creativity
- It makes your coffee taste worse.
Okay, it won’t impact the coffee (unless there is internal strife about what coffee to buy!), but as you can see, the capacity to handle conflict has a broad impact—not just on those high-profile conflicts that get people’s attention. Start building your capacity for handling conflict sooner rather than later.