Business Magazine

How To Generate Productive Conflict at Work

By Shrinkingthecamel

How To Generate Productive Conflict at WorkMy colleagues and I are trying to generate more conflict in our meetings at work.

Some of us executives have been reading “Death by Meeting,” by Patrick Lencioni. He promotes, among other things, healthy drama as the starring attraction of your meetings.

Conflict is good, he says, because it forces people to get beyond surface-level platitudes and head nodding – which of course leads to head-bobbing and drooping eyelids. Instead, conflict can get team members engaged by digging deep into the heart of an issue and voicing their passionate opinions.  

And he’s right. Bringing up differing points of view can be extremely valuable to the overall outcome of a meeting. If you disagree, or think the idea being presented is stupid, why not say something?

Conflict simply leads to better decisions.

According to a survey by OfficeTeam, managers think that 28% of their meetings are a complete waste of time. But what do you expect when folks are assembling in limp heaps around conference tables, only to listen passively to what’s being presented without voicing their true opinions? It’s usually after the meeting’s over when the real opinions start coming out, with end runs and gossipy closed-door office conversations.

There is a healthy way to go about generating productive conflict.

Robin Democoni, Sr Vice President and Brand Manager for Elle Group, was featured in the Corner Office segment of the New York Times Sunday business section last week, and has her own take on how to generate healthy dialogue.

“You can say anything to anyone, as long as you say it the right way,” she says.

The ‘right way,’ of course being the operative words here. She calls it MRI, or “most respectful interpretation.”

Robin encourages people to challenge her, to be passionate about their ideas, but to couch their alternate opinions in a respectful way.  She gives an example:

“Maybe you need to preface it with: ‘I’m just curious, and I want to understand what you’re saying better. Right now, my point of view is quite different. So can you help me understand why you don’t want to do this, or why you wanted to do this?’”

Now, that doesn’t sound like negative, bullying destructive talk, does it? She continues by saying,

“If you get people talking and challenging each other, you’re going to have the ability to arrive at the right decision so much quicker and so much easier.”

Robin, I couldn’t agree with you more.  Honest.


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