Are you avoiding confrontation or conflict for fear of ruffling a few feathers? Unresolved conflicts get added to your “conflict debt,” which can negatively impact team success, contributing to inefficiencies at the organization level and overwork at the individual level. Workplace conflict is a natural byproduct of an engaged and and high-functioning team. Resolving those friction points (instead of letting them accrue interest) often leads to a more harmonious and productive work environment.
Is unresolved conflict creating a debt that you can’t afford?
I really enjoyed and appreciated the webinar brought to us from our colleagues at The Talent Company last week, that featured our friend Dr. Liane Davey. Liane led us through an exploration of a number of leadership gaps – and opportunities – that she has been seeing in her work.
One of the most interesting parts for me was discussing the idea that organizations are drowning in conflict debt; and that this is a contributor to the challenges many teams are facing.
Conflict debt is a new term to many, but unfortunately, I too have seen teams whose conflict debt is rising to the level that they need to start treading water!
In short, conflict debt is the sum total of all the unresolved conflict that exists in a team. Conflict that many leaders choose to turn away from includes:
- Introducing a potentially contentious topic but excluding people who might disagree or give challenging feedback
- Withholding feedback that otherwise would allow someone to do a better job or could have led to a better decision
- Promising yourself you will revisit sensitive items when things are less busy, or when cooler heads prevail
Allowing this debt to compound has a significant impact on teams, organizations, and yes… YOU!
You can bring your team to a better place by taking this conflict head on. Taking the time to (1) find out where the tensions in your team need to exist, and then (2) making the effort to ensure there is a forum available to work through that friction.
Take heart though… disliking conflict is not the same as avoiding conflict. You can dislike something and do it anyway. And if it is conflict that you dislike, all the more reason to address issues early when the conflict will be less unpleasant.