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Is conflict the secret to a successful business?

Sharon Florentine | Sept. 23, 2014
Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. Don't fight it. If handled correctly, conflict can actually lead to happier, more engaged employees -- and that translates into a better business.

"One of our foundational principles at Dale Carnegie is empathy - always try and appreciate the other person's point of view, how that fits into the business strategy first before your own," Palazzolo says. And make sure that conflicts, when they do happen, are kept within a business context and aren't allowed to fester and become personal attacks.

Don't Let It Get Personal
"If you're involved with conflict, whether it's on a project or whether it's a more general disagreement about work habits, hours, what have you, make sure it's not becoming personal. Make sure the arguments stay professional at all times," Palazzolo says. "A good question to ask to keep things on a professional level is, 'What is it about this issue that you cannot endorse? What is it about this strategy that you can't get behind?" she says.

Palazzolo also advises keeping the "big picture" front and center in any conflict resolution strategy; sometimes the end goal can get lost in the minutia of every day work, she says.

"In conflict resolution, you have to make sure the end-goal is always in mind. And you have to make sure that the conflict isn't stemming from the business' expectations or the project scope or scale in general; ask yourself, 'Is the strategy wrong? Does everyone on the team know what the actual goal is? Do they know their roles and the expectations for their work?' You should go back and revisit if you've set the right goals and trajectory for your project, and see if any of those aren't in alignment with the work your teams are doing," she says.

You also need to ensure you get buy-in and solicit feedback from those teams, Palazzolo says. By fostering an open discussion that invites comments and constructive criticism from everyone involved can head off unnecessary conflict and can make inevitable arguments easier to handle.

"It seems obvious, but one of the things we teach is basic problem-solving. Lay out the pros and cons of 'Position A' versus 'Position B,' and predict all possible outcomes that can happen for each; both worst-case and best-case. Once you make a decision, you must make sure that everyone's bought in to the direction you've decided on," Palazzolo says.


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