business project

Why conflict is great

In this episode of Project Management Insights, I explain why conflict is great.

Let’s talk about what it means when there is conflict, and why it is a positive thing to have.

I also talk about how it benefits everyone on the team to have conflict.

Podcast Script

Hi. Welcome to this Project Management Insights podcast number seven; Why Conflict on a Project Team is Great.

I can hear you telling me already that I’m crazy saying that conflict on a project team is great and that’s okay. I can handle that. Let me explain to you though why conflict on a project team IS great at least from my perspective.

I was one of those people who grew up hating conflict. For me it always signaled loud voices, shouting, disagreement, and a feeling that I wasn’t safe. This may be the reason why most people don’t like conflict. It wasn’t until I undertook my negotiation and mediation training at University, as part of my Masters of Business Administration studies, that I learnt about the value of conflict, especially as it relates to negotiation.

Conflict is disagreement. Disagreement is people voicing their ideas and opinions. How fantastic is that?

  • We’re getting to hear people’s perspectives.
  • We are getting to hear and see where they consider there are differences in understanding.
  • We are getting to validate or discredit assumptions that we and other team members have made.
  • We get to hear from the naysayers about why something won’t work.
  • We get to hear from the activists how they see this problem could be solved quickly and easily.

Wow. What great information and collaboration going on.

A lot of the issues that we have with conflict stems back to our strong perception that it is bad. What if we were able to look at it as a good thing? What if it was a positive thing that every project needed in order to be working in the best possible way? What if a project was measured in regards to how successful it was based on the amount of conflict there was and how that conflict was managed? Wow, that’d be pretty awesome.

Any conflict is good conflict. You will see issues raised that you weren’t aware of. You will get ideas thrown out on the table that people may have otherwise kept to themselves. You will get to see how passionate members of the team are about certain aspects of it. This is ALL really valuable. Therefore, here’s what I suggest that you do, in order to work with the conflict that does arise on your team in the best possible way.

Set the ground rules with the team that conflict is seen as a positive and good thing. Explain to the team that in order for conflict to work in the best way FOR the team, we all need to come to team meetings or work sessions with an open mind and be willing to listen to the other team members. Everyone on the team has a right to speak and be heard. This is key. As soon as someone feels shutdown or not listened to, you lose the value of what they are saying and their involvement in the team. Remind everyone that conflict is not personal.

This might be hard for some people to hear. Repeat it again, CONFLICT IS NOT PERSONAL. It’s about someone having a different opinion to yours or what someone else is saying. Everyone has a right to their opinion. That is their business. When you don’t agree with it, that’s also fine. You don’t have to agree with it and it’s not personal.

Conflict can be managed in several different ways; by listening and negotiating a mutually agreeable outcome or agreeing to disagree. If team members agree to disagree, then that needs to be the end of it. That, this agreeing to disagree, is the agreed outcome and unless it’s going to cause a problem with the delivery, it must be left there.

Here are some of the benefits from conflict.

  • Discussing conflict makes team members aware and able to cope with problems.
  • Conflict strengthens relationships and heightens morale.
  • Conflict promotes awareness of self and others.
  • Through conflict people learn what makes them angry, frustrated, and frightened, and also what is important to them. And these are good and valuable things.
  • Conflict enhances personal development.
  • It helps people become more accurate and realistic in their self appraisals.
  • Through conflict people take others’ perspectives and become less egocentric.
  • Conflict can be stimulating and fun.
  • People feel aroused, involved and alive in conflict, and it can be a welcome break from an easy going or frantic pace.

This section on benefits is taken directly from the book ‘Negotiation’ by Luiki, Barry and Saunders, and I really liked the way that they discussed the benefits of conflict, which is why I’ve included it here.

I hope that this has shown you the value of conflict and why having it on a project team is great. Consider the value of conflict on your project team. Have you got enough of it? Are you handling it in the best possible way?

Have you got the whole team on board to be comfortable with conflict? If not, take the time to revisit some of the suggestions that I’ve made here and see if you can then create a better, happier and more conflict happy project team where everyone likes conflict rather than seeing it as not good.

If you are having difficulty getting team members onside you might find these five tips valuable.