February 24

Some people believe that any conflict is a sign of a lack of team health. I once had a manager say, “We’re the healthiest team you’ll ever see. We never fight!” What I wanted to tell him was “You are the most profoundly dysfunctional team I’ve ever seen!” but I held my tongue. A lack of conflict on a team could mean that you’re in a season where everything is just clicking, but it more likely indicates that people don’t feel accountable, they don’t feel that their opinions matter, or they are terrified of the consequences of speaking their minds.

When you fight, it’s important to fight fair. Healthy conflict happens within certain boundaries:

Fight over ideas[1], not personality. The moment a fight gets personal, everyone loses.

Agree on common ground before attacking the other person’s idea. Make sure that you are actually arguing about the same thing. Don’t assume.

Articulate the other person’s argument before dismantling it. Make certain that the other person feels understood before striving to make your argument.

If you follow thesethree guidelines[2], you will have much healthier conflict and more productive conversations.

Healthy conflict is normal in creative work. How you handle it is critical.

Is there any conflict in your work life that would benefit from a good, focused conversation?

AU & ED: I changed to a bulleted list because there is no number in the paragraph introducing it.

AU: steps implies progression, and these don’t seem to be ordered, so I changed.

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