An Ounce of Workplace Conflict is Worth a Pound of Team Building

By Linda DeLuca, Executive Coach – Who taught you the adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” Mom and dad both taught me that lesson in their own ways. I learned that if I did regular checks and preventative maintenance, things lasted longer. If I stopped to dry my bike after a rain, I’d avoid a rusty bike that might fall apart. If I mended the small tear in my jeans, I could avoid an embarrassing moment as I bent over and the rip became a gaping hole. Later in life, I learned the same adage applies to business relationships. A little forethought and preparation goes a long way in keeping relationships (and business) going smoothly. Of course I learned that lesson the hard way — through unresolved workplace conflict.

Check for and address smaller issues before they become big issues. 

workplace conflict

Before I learned that workplace conflict can actually be constructive, I avoided every tense meeting. We’ve all experienced meetings with tension so thick you could cut it with a knife. Dealing with a tense team interaction is never easy. Sometimes as professionals we behave more like five year olds than established professionals. It’s even more embarrassing if you’re one of the five year olds and don’t realize it.

I had butted heads with a member of a cross-functional team in our first meeting. From then on, instead of having constructive conversations during the meeting, I reverted to my stress mode and stayed silent and invisible. Also, I avoided eye contact and sometimes came in late and left early. After the meeting, I would go back to my office and provide my comments and objections in a scathing email. Clearly, this was not the best strategy. Gone unchecked, this could have led to career suicide. Thankfully, my leadership stepped in and helped me with something much like the Fearless Conflict Management approach.

An ounce of constructive workplace conflict is worth the pound of team building.

That experience was instrumental in understanding how high performing teams really work. And how individuals on those teams need to continuously take care of their relationships.

Often, conflict behaviors come from a lack of understanding and an avoidance of conflict that comes from a place of fear. Have you ever asked yourself, “Can’t we just put everyone into time out?!” Instead, what if we could recognize our own destructive behaviors in the face of conflict? What if  we could manage workplace conflict instead of trying to resolve or avoid it? Finally, what if we could actually learn how to harness its power? Think of constructive conflict as a valuable tool to help improve your team’s performance.


Learn how to manage your response to conflict situations and how workplace conflict can be a positive force to move forward and improve results at our next Lunch & Learn: Conflict Can Be Productive.