Becoming Comfortable with Conflict

High performing organisations are comfortable with conflict. Leaders allow it to happen and ensure their people are skilled in having “constructive” rather than “destructive” conflict.

How do you create an environment where people are comfortable with conflict?

Michael Kirton, the British psychologist notes that as soon as we have a problem that involves us working with another person, we have two problems: Problem “A”- the task, and Problem “B” – managing the relationship with the other person. As we all know, Problem “B” often ends up taking up more time than problem “A”.

Most of us don’t like conflict and will usually do whatever we can to avoid it. Yet conflict is inevitable and if not managed well, compromises business performance.

Here are 10 suggestions for creating an environment that creates productive conflict:

  1. Ensure your people all understand your end game – what you are trying to achieve?
  2. Become more self-aware – understand how you currently behave when in conflict and the impact you have on others
  3. Enable your team to become more self-aware of how they each currently behave when in conflict and how that impacts on others (the Conflict Dynamics Profile is a great tool to assist in this)
  4. Ensure your people understand the process of conflict and the consequences of constructive v. destructive behaviours
  5. Keep things calm – manage the emotion (becoming skilled in “mindfulness” is very useful)
  6. Slow down and reflect on what’s going on for you before you respond
  7. Listen attentively and teach others to do the same
  8. Speak with clarity and purpose – so you are clearly understood
  9. Take the time to prepare for a hard conversation – don’t do it on the fly
  10. Hold each other accountable for destructive behaviours – if people won’t change, get rid of them. The “no dickheads” policy works, but it requires bravery from leaders.

If you need some assistance to make this happen, don’t hesitate to contact me:


Mark Rosenberg