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October 24, 2022

How to Have Productive Conflict

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The quality of our lives depends not on whether or not we have conflicts, but on how we respond to them. ~Thomas Crum

We’ve likely all experienced disagreements that seem to go around in circles. Maybe it happened while disciplining a child or when you tried to discuss politics at Thanksgiving. No one likes conflict that doesn’t go anywhere.

Because of this type of conflict, we often label all conflict in general as something to be avoided. However, when it comes to the workplace, you need conflict. The key is to make the conflict productive.

What is Productive Conflict?

Productive conflict is an open exchange of differing points of view. While the ideas that each person expresses may be different, the goal of everyone involved is often the same. That goal could be to move a project forward or get it back on schedule or find new ways to grow the company.

When the end goal is the same, you want to have as many ideas as possible brought to the table, even if those ideas conflict with each other.

So long as each party can recognize that the group is working towards the same goal, the conflict will not feel like a personal attack. Instead, it will feel more like a collaborative brainstorming session.

This type of conflict is what builds great ideas and helps everyone buy-in to the final decision. Organizations don’t benefit from one idea being brought to the table and agreed upon with little thought to the alternatives. An idea only goes from a good one to a great one when informed by other perspectives brought to the table and the entire group buys in and commits to making it a success.

How to Have Productive Conflict

Productive conflict sounds like a great idea for teams, but how do you ensure that disagreements stay in the realm of productivity instead of becoming personal attacks?

At the Heffelfinger Company, we turn to Everything DiSC® Productive Conflict to better understand and teach others about productive conflict. Everything DiSC® Productive Conflict provides a learning experience that helps increase self-awareness around how we and others enter into conflict and how we each respond to the uncomfortable feelings that conflict often brings about.

The training starts with an assessment that looks at what each participant prioritizes in situations of conflict. Understanding what we care about most during a conflict can help us adjust our priorities to focus on the overall goal of the conflict.

As we mentioned earlier, working towards the goal can help bring into focus what would make the disagreement most productive. It takes out personal feelings and instead focuses on a shared goal toward which the people participating in the conflict can agree to work.

When you approach conflict this way, you’re more likely to find a middle ground or a resolution that connects to the goal itself, and one to which the group can buy-in. Instead of being in a disagreement that seems to go around in circles or that leaves people feeling frustrated or hurt, you’ll end up with a stronger solution because of an intentional process of conflict.

Ready for More Productive Conflicts?

If you feel like your team could benefit from productive conflict, we’d be happy to help you through the Everything DiSC® Productive Conflict learning experience.  Learn more about our assessment options.

Let’s work together to help YOU bring powerful, positive change to your organization.


James Jackman and Lori Heffelfinger

Supporting Business Leaders to transform cultures, teams, and workplaces.

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