Your Welcoa membership has expired.

What I Wish I Had Known About Workplace Conflict

BY: Maggie Gough • COO | WELCOA

A company that experiences conflict is a healthy one. Better said, a company that experiences healthy conflict is a healthy one. We are socially conditioned to work toward kindness, respect, and comfort. However, most conflict feels uncomfortable, and many people don’t learn how to operate through conflict with kindness and respect. For that reason, unfortunately, a lot of our disagreements in the workplace are avoided.

That avoidance can lead to unresolved issues and, ultimately, mistrust. An organization filled with people who can’t work through disagreement and lack trust in each other is dysfunctional. As we make our way through our year focused on safety as the baseline of workforce well-being, we must address conflict.

Several years ago, I read Brené Brown’s book, Rising Strong. I had been in the workforce for about ten years. I had yet to experience working for a team or organization that effectively addressed conflict, and it had taken its toll on my well-being. In Rising Strong, Brené Brown explained that we all create stories. Our brains fill in missing pieces of information to make sense of any given situation. She explained that just because our brains fill in the missing pieces, it doesn’t make those pieces true. The book outlined how her team practices using the phrase, “the story I’m creating is…” as a way for any team member to share the discomfort they might be sitting with. This allows for the rest of the team to provide important facts that may either offset the team member’s story or validate their story. Either way, it became a kind and respectful way for her team to name discomfort and conflict when it was presented.

This was so profound and yet simple to me, that when I heard it, I paused the audiobook and sat with it for a moment. I thought back to countless workplace experiences where I REALLY wished I had this skill set. I wondered, “why don’t we learn this in school?”

After that, I continued to learn valuable ways I could improve the way I work through conflict in the workplace. At WELCOA, we strive to practice these methods with our own team.

The ability to move toward tension with the skills to maneuver through conflict with respect, kindness, and safety is a powerful change agent in an organization. We all already know this to be inherently true. But having the skills to do so is the real game changer. We can say that organizations need to build trust and manage conflict, but if we don’t teach people how to do that or model that behavior as leaders, we won’t get there.

While it sounds nice to have an organization where everyone is happy and agreeable, you can be certain that laying just below the surface is massive tension. Not to mention, if everyone is always agreeable, you don’t know what problems need solving or how things could be better. As a consultant, a major red flag for me is when someone says, “Everything here is fine. Sure it could be better, but it’s fine.” There is no growth, engagement, or well-being in a statement of that nature. Those words speak to employees who tolerate the system as it is, simply to get by.

The good news is that employees, managers, and executive leaders recognize this area of need and are desperate for these skill sets.

This is why we put together a WELCOA Pulse episode to discuss this exact topic. Tune in to gain tactical methods of delivering feedback, and learn why this is crucial for creating healthy and engaging organizational cultures. You’ll walk away with the ability to safely deliver feedback to your peers, leaders, and/or direct reports, in a way that supports a safe and trusting environment.

Watch the WELCOA Pulse Episode

Maggie Gough
Serving a variety of populations in a multitude of industries, Maggie understands the complexity and depth of the corporate wellness industry and the needs of the professionals and employees they support. Her role at WELCOA is to ensure members receive stellar service and build sustaining connections as a community.