A Culture of Healthy Conflict
Last week was Conflict Resolution Week. A group of colleagues and I put on two events in the form of World Cafés to discuss the topic of preventative conflict with our communities, one in Fort St John and the other in Dawson Creek. We had an exciting turn out of community members for each event (approximately 10-12 for each, which is pretty fantastic for small Northern BC communities!) and we're thrilled with how they went.
On Saturday I attended a TedX Conference in Grande Prairie which the theme was "connection". There were a number of speakers who discussed connection in different ways; connection to each other, to ourselves, to the world, and many others.
One theme that I have seen woven through these presentations and talks during the World Cafés and the TedX talks, is that of small steps in order to make great change.
My presentation during the World Café was on a culture of healthy conflict and that my idea of a perfect world was one that embraced conflict as a tool for change and opportunity. Now, I know this doesn't sound like preventing conflict. That's because I believe that preventing conflict will only make it worse. Conflict is natural and normal. A beautiful thing about humans is how different we all are, and when there are differences there is going to be conflict. Max Lucado said it perfectly, "conflict is inevitable, combat optional." My idea of a culture of healthy conflict is that differences will be embraced and celebrated rather than oppressed, people will be curious rather than defensive, and people will use effective conflict management skills rather than fighting. Ultimately leading to a place where conflict is managed effectively, preventing the escalation of conflict.
In a typical workplace 80% or more of employees have not wanted to deal with a conflict with a coworker; which has lead to them using avoiding techniques for more than 50% of their day for up to several weeks. This leads to inefficient time management, negative work environments, and delays on work deadlines; depending on the size of the company these can cost millions of dollars. Another study found that managers spend nearly half their days managing conflict in the workplace and that almost none of them have any formal conflict management training. How fantastic would it be if each employee was comfortable enough to manage most of their own conflicts without fear of things going sour or making things worse? And how great would it be if managers were able to spend the majority of their working time on developing programs, budgeting, and generally putting effort in to improving the companies they manage?
The idea is that small steps lead to great change. If we all take small steps to manage conflict more effectively, we can collectively lead to a culture of healthy conflict. See Gordon White's blog post on Peaceweaving for another great example of this.
Let me know what you think of developing a culture of healthy conflict and ask me how you can get started on that in your life!