Managing Conflict for Positive Results

by anonymous

On any healthy team, conflict is common, useful, even helpful. Without it, groups become complacent, bad ideas go unchallenged, and team members are less than honest with one another. But how do you keep conflict from getting out of hand? Follow these tips to keep conflict from turning destructive:

Focus on ideas, not people. If someone in the group comes up with a bad idea, encourage team members to question the worth of the idea, not the competence of the planner. Don't say "Jim's suggestions will put us five days behind schedule." Better: "Let's discus this. We may have some scheduling problems."

Acknowledge every idea's merits. When group debate heats up, calm the waters by singling out the team member who's most upset and acknowledging the merits of his position. Example: "I can see the advantage of George's view; for example (list one or two). But I'd like to suggest another line of thinking."

Use smoothing statements. Don't let team members take sides. Encourage them to consider the other side's arguments. Examples: "Maybe there's another interpretation..." "What about the possibility that..."

Get some distance. If you can't get the group to reach consensus, it might be time to step back and analyze the situation. Review your team members' thinking so far. This gives you time to regroup, to suggest revisions, to raise questions, and to challenge your team members to do the same.