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BroadVision Marketing Blog

That Leader Knows When Conflict is Destructive or Constructive

Posted by Jaco Grobbelaa on Sun, Nov 06, 2011 @ 06:45 PM

[caption id="attachment_2508" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Constructive Conflict Resolution"][/caption]

Just because conflict happens, doesn’t mean that it is always a bad thing. That Leader will know whether the conflict is destructive or is constructive.

How do you tell when a conflict is destructive?

That Leader will know that a conflict is destructive when the team is supposed to be working on goal setting and instead wind up in the middle of an argument that takes attention away from the purpose of the meeting. If someone is having a problem and decides that the meeting is the place to air it, That Leader needs to take control of the meeting back, offer to meet with the argumentative person later and return to the topic.

A destructive conflict will undermine the team’s morale or self-concept. Wondering if they can successfully do the project can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the conflict polarizes people and groups so that they don’t cooperate, they will also not be successful. Any conflict that increases or sharpens the difference between the members will reduce efficiency. If a conflict causes a complete breakdown of the group it will be recognizable by irresponsible and harmful behaviors, such as fighting and name calling.

How do you know when a conflict is constructive?

On the other hand conflict can be constructive. That Leader can use a conflict to clarify important problems and issues. She can use it to work out solutions to problems and involve the people in resolving issues that are important to them. A constructive conflict builds authentic communication, helping release emotions, anxiety and stress, the three things most likely at the bottom of most conflicts. This in turn will build cooperation among people through learning more about each other.  By joining in resolving the conflict together team members individually will develop the skills and understanding to deal with future issues—and there will be future issues.

It becomes obvious that the difference between a destructive and constructive conflict is in the way the leader handles the situation. A weak or ineffective leader will find himself in the middle of chaos. Meetings will turn into gripe sessions or pity parties. The group will be negatively impacted by the overall negativity of the one. People will find themselves taking sides for or against either the conflicted person or the leader, and they will stop trying to work together as a team. As the conflict worsens people will fight with each other instead of cooperate, which is the function of a team. The leader will either sit back and watch in dismay without doing anything, or he will jump into the fray and become just another player.

If That Leader sees the conflict at its beginning, is aware of who is having the conflict by watching the indicators such as body language or increasing lack of respect, she will take positive action to turn the conflict into an opportunity for growth within the group. This idea will come from That Leader’s attribute of viewing problems as opportunities. Because of this she will want to sit down with the person who is unhappy and find out what is wrong. The team can work together to look at solutions and resolve the problem. Authentic communications between members will take place and others will see and understand the emotion, anxiety or stress of the person with the conflict. Seeing this will increase everyone’s feeling of learning about each other. In the end That Leader will have helped the conflicted person, helped the team learn some of the skills they need to work together and created harmony where there had been chaos.

What types of leaders have you seen before? What were the results when there were conflicts? Did you learn anything from this example?

This information is from Washington State School Directors' Association and found on http://www.nsba.org/sbot/toolkit/
Jaco Grobbelaar, owner of BroadVision Marketing, helps business owners and business professionals put marketing strategies in place that consistently secure new clients. He can be reached at jaco@broadvisionmarketing.com or 707.799.1238. You can “Like” him at www.facebook.com/broadvisionmarketing or connect with him on www.linkedin.com/in/JacoGrobbelaar.

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Topics: blog, Business, Marketing strategy, Leadership, Teamwork, Team, Team leader, Goal setting, Organizational conflict, Conflict resolution, team member

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