Few of us enjoy dealing with conflict.
But shying away from conflict doesn’t work – you’ll get mediocre results from a team who focuses more on being nice than making progress, or worse, your better team members will become disengaged and actively seek new roles.
So what are some clues to alert you that you may need to step in to catalyze the chemical reaction?
Pay close attention to people’s body language. If you are frequently witnessing a mismatch between what people are saying and how they are acting, that might indicate that they are really not in favor of a direction.
If the drive to maintain team harmony appears to trump all others, that may need to be called out. A symptom of this is whenever any discussion starts to become lively, a number of team members suggest that it be taken offline (which never happens), or some other type of interference occurs to interrupt the progression of the conflict.
On the other hand, unhealthy conflict is evidenced by a greater focus on personalities and positions rather than the underlying issue.
If you start witnessing attacks on individual team members or if you notice a growing reluctance to participate in team discussions or withdrawing symptoms from certain team members, it could mean that conflicts are beginning to become too personal and need to be re-focused.
Of course, picking up on signs of poor conflict requires you to be sufficiently self-aware – it can be difficult to identify the behaviors of your team members if you are exhibiting the same behaviors yourself.
While it is an essential ingredient when forging healthy, productive teams, conflict can feel like making nitroglycerine. – you need it to make a bomb, but let the process get away from you, and you are likely to bear the brunt of the failure.