Monday, April 13, 2009


A while back I was reading a book about business success. The name of the book and the title aren’t really that important, but I was struck by a comment the author made about the team of people he had working on this book for him. You see, a lot of authors of business books don’t just sit down and write a book. Instead, they employ a team of people who do research and analysis for them, and then they write the book based on that research.

The author in question made a comment about a meeting he held with his research team and their discussions about whether a certain idea should be included in the book or not. He said that emotions were running high on both sides of the question and that the meeting consisted of a number of people screaming and shouting their thoughts and opinions.

“This can’t be good”, I thought. “How can they possibly be expected to get anything done if they can’t even be civil to each other? And how will they ever reach agreement when they are clearly polarized in their opinions?”

But there are two sides to the conflict issue. While one side would argue that conflict is destructive to an organization, others would argue that a workplace without conflict is a workplace where nothing ever changes or improves. And that a workplace without conflict is a workplace where artificial truces exist that give the appearance of agreement where none really exists. And that conflict can be good for an organization because it means the people there feel safe enough to engage in strong discussions, knowing that their opinions count and that the conflict will be limited to the issues and not become personal.

Is conflict inherently bad in the workplace?

Have we created an environment where people are afraid to express themselves for fear of conflict?

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. Would you rather work in a bland, conflict-absent arena where strong thoughts and opinions are withheld? Or would you rather work in a place where conflict means passion, and the arguments lead to better, stronger decisions?

Share your thoughts with me. I’m interested in what you have to say.

Until next time...

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

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