Training magazine published an article by Margery Weinstein on Conquering Conflict. Being the contrarian that I am, let me present another side to this discussion.
Conflict management training does not mean “conflict avoidance”.
Any organization that tries to eliminate conflict is robbing itself of creativity, free thinking, and even teamwork.Is it bad to have production and sales at odds with each other? If one is too dominate, you lose the balance between these two functions that is necessary for the company to have healthy growth. If production decides what to make, when to make it, and the quality, then sales is stuck with trying to sell whatever comes off the production line. If sales is selling whatever they can without regard to production considerations, then you lose the efficiency of operation that is necessary to make the sale profitable. You actually want these two functions to fight for and defend their own interests for the betterment of the organization.
This does not mean that we want conflict over harmony; the end result should be a more harmonious atmosphere because now you have two functions who have to listen to and understand the position of the other. But by simply removing the conflict between the two, you miss that important interaction.
Look at some of the most successful organizations and you will see conflict is built-in. It provides the balance necessary to have the optimal outcome. A president without a congress to control the president’s actions would be a dictator. A congress with both Republicans and Democrats provides a give-and-take that makes our laws better, not worse. (You may disagree with me on that one, but work with me anyway.) In my own house, my wife and I disagree over how to raise the children. If either one of us had our way all the time, our children would be too strong in one area and too weak in another. So together we give and take to the betterment of our children. The disagreements become the right blend of constraints and freedoms for our children.In my own company, a key performance indicator (KPI) is accounts receivable as a measurement of recent sales. A high number indicates that we have high recent sales. So sometimes I ask my sales manager why our accounts receivable number is so low. Then I walk down the hall and ask my collections manager why the accounts receivable number is so high because that means we are not collecting payments. I want both of them pushing and pulling over that number for different reasons.
Sure, conflicts should be avoided if they are detrimental to the success of the organizations. Successful companies however, understand the value of building conflict into an organization.