Turning Conflict into a Learning Curve

You may have heard of this quote before:

Failure is not failure if you learn from it.

Often, conflict in the workplace is perceived as a negative element that can hinder team harmony and productivity, and can lead to the breakdown of goals, projects and in worst case scenarios, the overall business. It can be seen as professional failure.

However, as we’ve just been reminded of – failure isn’t failure if you learn from it.

While unresolved communication, role identity or workplace inequality conflicts may be harmful to a business, other forms of conflict can act as a catalyst for innovation and team growth. Further, regardless of the conflict form (described below), observation, reflection and both behavioural and attitude change can turn the conflict into a productive professional and personal lesson.

The three forms of conflict that may become apparent in a working environment, and are often inevitable, regardless of the size and scope of the business are:

Task conflicts: disagreements over what the team is supposed to accomplish.

Relationship conflicts: disagreements between members that have become personal.

Process conflicts: disagreements over how the team should go about its work.

So, how can you turn a conflict within one of these elements into a lesson?

1. Reflect

The first step to ensuring you learn from the situation, regardless of the outcome, is to reflect. Those who walk away from a conflict without taking some time to look back at what happened; why a course of action was taken over an another, what factors influenced the situation and decisions, and what could have been done differently will lack incredibly valuable insight.

2. Examine

Now that you’ve taken the time to reflect, allocate some time to unpack your insights and examine the information, as it will reveal why the conflict occurred, how it can be mitigated in the future and how you can develop a company culture that facilitates professional and personal relationships.

3. Change

In order to be certain that you’ll turn the conflict into a lesson, putting what you’ve learnt into practice is imperative. Whether it’s a change in attitude, requiring you to shift your perspective in order to identify and mitigate future conflicts, of whether its behavioural, allowing you to maximise your relationship with employees and helping guide them as well, change is key.

Remember, where there are people, there are differences, so conflict in a business can hard to avoid, but it can also be an opportunity for you and your team to grow and learn.

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