For many of us we have always thought that conflict was bad. Have you ever noticed that most people can be bold or even abrasive through emails or texts, but they avoid direct confrontation in person?  Technology gives everyone a shot in the arm of ‘digital courage,’ because it removes the human element from the human interaction. It’s much more difficult to think about addressing a peer or several people in a workgroup with a strong difference of opinion.

I bet you are thinking, “Jason, what is your point?!”


I will get to that when I am ready darn it, just keep reading and enjoying yourselves!

With a fairly strong HR background, I always embraced the idea that conflict was bad, for obvious reasons.  When I say conflict, I am thinking of physically fighting, threats of fighting, or people screaming at one another. These are the scenarios that I had to deal with that were an obvious source of disruption and needed swift resolution.  Let’s switch gears for a moment.

I grew up playing a lot of sports, both pickup games and in leagues.  Disagreements are inevitable in just about every team sport that I can think of, so I was involved with plenty of those.  A lot of times this was with the other team, but not always.  If you are reading this and you have ever been involved with a team sport, I’ll bet you can recall a conflict within your own team.  Whether it’s a sideline or a locker room, emotions can reach a boiling point when there is a thin red line between winning and losing.


Are you with me on this?

Is conflict always a bad thing, like society so often teaches us?  I think it really depends on how you approach it to get to an outcome.  I always hated losing in basketball but accepted it as a possible outcome for every game that I played.  Previously, I can recall getting pissed off and refusing to go down without swinging and strongly disagreeing with one or more guys on my team about how to proceed with the game.  What I learned is that you can take that fire from everyone and channel it towards the same goal of winning.  What an amazing concept.

Sometimes I didn’t have the best idea because one of my teammates thought of it first. Approaching the topic of getting the win with only seconds remaining can get intense, but if you are not onboard with the plan, you have to speak up.  This is the time to do this, because there may not be another opportunity.


I encourage teams of all kinds to speak their minds freely.

Of course while staying respectful to one another and allowing everyone to fully say their piece.  We all have a need to get things off of our chest and share our perspectives, opinions, and ideas.  Holding all of this in leads to people blowing up in the workplace or on the ball team and at that point, nothing productive is going to come from it.

The teams that engage in healthy conflict together, grow together.  The teams that grow together, win together.  All relationships require trust, honesty, and compromise to grow and if your team isn’t performing well perhaps you should examine these things.  I do think that there should be a time and a place to have these healthy debates and it’s best if its thought out in advance, but it does not always work that way.


Successful teams have something in common.

When I reflect on some of the strongest work teams that I have been a part of, the common thread was the frequent opportunity to engage in healthy debates.  If everyone on your team thinks just like you, your team is going to be very weak.  I don’t care what your experience entails or what degrees you have either.  The strength of a team comes from the sum of its different parts.  Different ways of thinking and problem solving come with the territory too.


Process isn’t everything.

People focus too much on the process (think about micromanagers here) and not enough on the destination.  How do you know that your idea is the best if you have never considered any other options?  You don’t and I don’t and no one does, my friends.  If you want to see true synergy on any of your teams and you want to ‘jell’ like the Chicago Bulls from the early 1990’s, provoke some healthy conflict and let the growing begin.


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I realize that this may challenge some conventional thinking.

But the more I experience life, the more I realize that we all travel a backward route to our forward progress.

Thoughts on this or examples of how you use the same ideas?  Let’s hear about it in the comments section, please.  Like this post?  Subscribe to it to receive the latest blog post each week and so much more.


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