Productive Conflict: Offer Reassurance

Let’s do a hypothetical.

Your team is working on developing new software for one of your top clients. They have some complicated stuff going on, and they need a better way to track what’s coming through the warehouses, what’s exiting, and where it’s going in real time.

This is a big project and there’s a looming deadline. Tensions are high on your team. If you can’t meet the deadline, you not only risk losing the client, but you’ll lose credibility as well.

You and Morgan catch an inconsistency with what you’ve developed and what the client needed, so you both bring your individual solutions to the next team meeting. Both ideas get the client what they need, but they differ on the how. Yours pulls data from existing files with the click of a button. Morgan’s requires a new file that would weed out any previous errors, which would make the data more reliable. You both present your solutions, and the team discusses which one would be the best, with some adjustments, of course.

After a long conflict of views and ideas, they choose Morgan’s. Reliability trumps ease, they say. You feel defeated. You worked so hard. You fought for your idea, but Morgan fought harder. Deep down, you know this wasn’t personal even though it feels like it was.

Thankfully, you and Morgan have enough trust built up and he knows you well enough to know you need some reassurance. Once the meeting is over, he shakes your hand. “You did a great job in there. They could have easily gone with either of our ideas, because they were both good. Your criticism of mine was spot on. It gives us good stuff we can work on, and the software will be all the better because of it. So thank you. This project wouldn’t be where it is without you. I appreciate you.”

Suddenly, your muscles relax and the negativity drains away.

Morgan reassured you that the conflict wasn’t personal, that you’re a valued member of the team, and that you’re important. It wasn’t about win or lose. It was about getting the best possible product for the client. It’s the reassurance you needed.

Reassuring someone that the relationship is okay may be easier for those with the i style or S style than for those with the C style or D style.

This is the 7th post in an 18-part series discussing positive conflict behaviors. Effective leaders encourage productive conflict and discourage unproductive conflict. Follow along as we explore the positive impact of these behaviors.

Part 1: Finding the Root of the Problem
Part 2: Apologize
Part 3: Listen to Differing Perspectives
Part 4: Bring in a Neutral Perspective
Part 5: Separate Emotion from Fact
Part 6: Own Your Contributions

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