Toxic Workplace Conflict? Learn to Navigate Productively!
CONFLICT. What comes to mind? rama/Frustration/Gossip/Inefficient/Avoid/YUCK?
If you've ever been in a work environment with toxic conflict, it can literally be hard to breathe. Thick tension makes it impossible to relax. Some people shrink down into their shells, keeping their heads down, others beat their chests like silverback gorillas, some anxiously observe or gossip.
One of my most gut-wrenching memories in a corporate job years ago was of a conflict that evolved into a personality conflict…with someone in a powerful position – ugh! Things improved over time, but while it was bad it created enormous tension, especially between the two areas we represented. I was constantly on the defense, and negative emotions – that I didn’t know how to deal with constructively- affected judgement on both our parts. Too often "being right" was more important than objectivity in decision making. (Unfortunately, very little emotional intelligence was involved!)
How much did that toxic conflict drag down productivity? How much faster would we have met objectives and provided higher quality service if we adn't been fighting each other? Not to mention that decreasing the amp;quot;miserable factor" makes you easier to work and live with, as coworkers and families can attest to.
What is unhealthy conflict costing you and your organization? According to a recent survey of 12,000 respondents conducted by Wiley, managers, directors and executives spend an average of 3.2 hours a week dealing with conflict, and 70% said conflict negatively impacts their department efficiency. When it comes to employee experience, 69% said their job satisfaction would improve if coworkers handled conflict more effectively, while 40% have left a job because of unhealthy conflict.
The irony? Healthy conflict is vital to leveraging diversity of thought and ideas on teams,which fosters much needed innovation and creativity. What about its impact on productivity? According to Patrick Lencioni, well-known author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, healthy conflict is an essential part of a cohesive team. We know conflict is going to happen in the workplace. The question becomes how do you transform negative conflict into productive conflict? (And yes, even with productive conflict, it’s still uncomfortable!)
Learning to navigate conflict is a skill that companies can teach their people. Effectively navigating conflict means we DO engage in conflict, although in more healthy, respectful ways. And like anything that increases our emotional intelligence, it starts with understanding yourself.
What are your triggers? Triggers can set off destructive thoughts and habitual responses we've developed (often in childhood). We can learn to "catch" those destructive thoughts and begin to re-frame them, even in the moment it's happening. Easy? No. Like all self-awareness, it takes effort and practice. As we become more proficient in
catching these thoughts and re-framing them, we can choose more productive responses. What I find interesting is that certain communication styles tend to trigger me more than others. Remember that old personality conflict I mentioned? Understanding what was hooking me at the time would have saved me years of frustration and increased my productivity. Plus, it wasn't the last time that style/behavior would trigger me! I've learned to spot patterns, which means learning faster, resulting in being a more self-aware, effective communicator.
What can you and your organization do? Anything that interrupts auto-pilot! Check into the resources available to increase self-awareness, and the many tools that support people in practicing new ways of expressing their differences in honest, respectful and productive ways.
Learn more about your personal conflict style and how you can be more productive in conflict. Join me in a free webinar “Transforming Workplace Conflict” on Fri. March 20th at 12pm Central Time to explore how you can learn to navigate through conflict in order to thrive. You will get a preview
of Wiley’s Everything DiSC Productive Conflict and see how you can use this tool to gain a better understanding of your own habitual responses in conflict, as well as those of others.
All those who complete the webinar will be given a free Everything DiSC Productive Conflict Assessment, compliments of Jill Hickman Companies, and a complementary coaching session with Amy Hart, an Authorized Partner of Jill Hickman Companies. One per company, limited seating.