Conflict 'gives people the chance to build relationships, to learn to collaborate and cooperate'
Some might say conflict in the workplace is to be avoided at all costs, lest it causes irreparable harm.
However, interesting new research from the Myers-Briggs Company has shown that might not always be the case, and that some quarrels in the office might have a beneficial effect.
John Hackston, head of thought leadership at Myers-Briggs, recently sat down with Jeffrey Smith of Canadian HR Reporter in the latest edition of CHRR Talk to discuss workplace conflict.
In the podcast, Hackston said that, on average, employees today spend more than four hours per week dealing with conflict at work. This represents a doubling of time from an earlier study done in 2008.
“First of all, most people felt that they managed conflict well. Most people in the survey said they had a high levels of job satisfaction, and they felt included at work,” he says.
However, for those who were involved in conflict for more than four hours per week, or even more, “they actually had lower job satisfaction. People who were really dissatisfied were spending an average of 16 hours per week on conflict. There was a wide range of time spent,” says Hackston.
This showed that experiencing an “extreme” amount of conflict is not good for people’s work satisfaction.
Some workplace quarrels can lead to allegations of bullying or harassment and some outcomes can be devastating.
The benefits of disagreements
However, positive feelings about arguments at work were unearthed by the study, according to Hackston.
“One of the interesting things is that if you look at what people felt were the negative consequences of conflict and the positive consequences of conflict, actually they mirrored each other because by some degree, the most commonly quoted positive outcome of conflict was it gave people the chance to build relationships with people, to actually learn to collaborate and cooperate with other people.”
By engaging in these mini battles at work, it often resulted in “more innovative solutions,” he says.
How employees dealt with conflict tended to match with their personality types.
“People who had a collaborating style, so that’s people who are collaborative, who are cooperative, who are assertive and are looking to get the best for both, those people tended to feel they deal with conflict well,” says Hackston.
By understanding who you are at work, this can yield a better outcome to the inevitable conflict.
“Whatever your natural style or natural preference, if you can learn what that natural style is and the effects of that style and how you deal with conflict when the occasion demands, that will perhaps help you deal with conflict better and also adapt your style for the particular situation or circumstance that you find yourself,” he says.