Many people dread conflict and actively avoid situations that might be conflict prone. Unfortunately, this is nearly impossible if you want to be successful at work. Fortunately, there are some surprising benefits of conflict.
Think of a time you got into an argument with a romantic partner. Remember how the conflict was horrible while you were in the middle of it. But once you resolved the conflict, a surprising thing happened. You felt even closer and more intimate than before the conflict. Hence the loveliness that is “make-up” sex.
The same is true for the workplace (without the sex). When you successfully work through conflict with your co-workers or boss, you end up deepening your relationship. This can lead to better understanding, greater commitment, a higher level of trust. This is the counter-intuitive part – that conflict successfully resolved actually increases trust.
This is part of the magic of startups. Founders and startup employees regularly bump up against each other because everyone is moving so quickly. Working through the bumps strengthens the relationships so that the team ends up doing miraculous things together.
Sometimes, though, it blows up (as with your previous girl/boyfriend). As long as both parties have skillfully tried to manage the conflict and been unsuccessful, this is probably for the best. It indicates a fundamental disagreement in values, vision or style that can’t be overcome. Better to know that and move along then ignore the problem and slowly, painfully, agonizingly discover this breach over time.
Either way, if you engage the conflict instead of avoiding it, you will save a ton of time, energy, stress and emotional upset, not to mention a huge amount of lost productivity. Avoiding conflict doesn’t resolve it. It just lets the conflict fester until it really blows up in an unmanageable way. Addressing the conflict when it shows itself gives you an opportunity to garner the incredible benefits of conflict.