Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Embracing Conflict

I saw this article on Harvard Business Review and immediately thought of “The Advantage”. Remember Lencioni outlining his first discipline, “Building a Cohesive Leadership Team”, and one of the behaviors of that, “Mastering Conflict”? Well the HBR article has a very similar opinion: conflict is not a bad thing. However, Lencioni focuses on increasing conflict, where the HBR article concentrates on tactics for individuals who avoid conflict and confrontation.

As someone who does not like to spark controversy (even though there are times I should), the tips the author provides are seemingly useful for me. An important part of confrontation is about delivery of the message. Although at times it appears to be so, conflict should never be an attack. As stated, conflict is merely “presenting a different point of view even when it is uncomfortable”. Building a cohesive team requires openness, honesty, and a diversity of thinking, which is all sparked from conflict. The key to remember is that the conflict these authors mention is “healthy conflict”, not arguments that lead nowhere.

To anyone else like me who naturally tends to avoid conflict, what are your thoughts about the advice the HBR article outlines? Do you think those tips are helpful?

For anyone on the opposite end (shout out to all your conflict lovers), do you see yourself using any of the steps outlined in “The Advantage” or this article to master conflict? If not, what steps do you take in embracing conflict?

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4 comments on “Embracing Conflict

  1. carolynsupinka18
    November 5, 2014

    As someone who is also really, really bad at handling conflict, I thought these tips were great! They all seemed focused on engaging the other party in problem solving, asking for their opinion and leading them into thinking about the problem and issues you are facing, rather than bluntly critiquing them.

    As I read them though, I found myself wishing I was someone who wasn’t afraid of conflict! It reminded me of something I think about a lot with literary criticism, or critiques we would have in art class. Just because someone is pointing out issues with your work doesn’t mean they have an issue with YOU. I was so good at giving and taking critiques in art settings, it seems silly that I can’t find a way to bring this healthy form of conflict outside of the workshop setting. Next time I face a situation that could potentially benefit from a little conflict, I’ll have to think of both of these courses of actions to choose how to respond!

  2. sarasps85
    November 7, 2014

    I love conflict. I have always watched my family engaging in really tough discussions about life, religion and others and I think that´s why I like it. But off course, never in a disrespectful way…On my side, if someone challenges my opinion or way of doing things that makes me think quicker and understand the real reason why I am doing A or B. I think it´s a question of challenging the way we think. If someone never questions or engages in healthy conflict with others…then…nothing changes. But I am very glad that we are all different and some people don´t actually like it as much as I do:). I also think that the article presents very good tips.

  3. lcrowley2014
    November 7, 2014

    I avoid conflict too but loved Lencioni’s points about conflict. I now totally see it’s importance in the workplace as a step or tool to work from to get everyone aligned. So often, I keep my conflicting opinions to myself rather than speak up about them. A meeting ends or a conclusion is made that I disagree with to my core, but I never said anything, so I have no choice but to go with the flow. Luckily, this has only happened to me personally on a very small scale, but I see how, as Lencioni illustrates, if this happened at a larger scale, on a higher level, it would be toxic to an organization. Therefore, I will try to put my aversion aside and embrace conflict!

  4. gaochang619
    November 7, 2014

    Thank you for sharing your idea Tori. I have encountered this article on Facebook and I clicked the link without hesitate because I thought I am just the “nice person” who does not like conflict and also is bad at dealing with it.
    At first I thought it might be a cultural character that people in my hometown try to avoid conflict and take it as a impolite behavior. It really bothers me because sometimes when I try to put up with an opposite idea in an academic discussion, it would be treated as an offensive attack. That’s why I am afraid of conflict so much.
    Therefore I also strongly agree with Carolyn’s comment:”…someone is pointing out issues with your work doesn’t mean they have an issue with YOU.” The more people embrace this idea, the healthier the conflict would be. I think it would be better if you tell your colleagues this prerequisite before sparking any possible controversy in work to prevent it from turning into a real “conflict”.

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