How to Transform Conflict Into Collaboration

Understanding Conflict

Conflict is inevitable, even on the highest-performing teams and in the most well-run companies. It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon. When you put two or more strong, talented people together, they will eventually disagree. People may clash about any number of things, including differences in approach, opposing ideas, or the processes that should be used to move forward with a decision.

Conflict isn’t always negative, but it can have a negative impact on the overall work environment if it is dealt with poorly or left unaddressed. If adversarial relationships are formed, they can lead to hostile behavior and sub-par team performance. It’s difficult to make high-quality decisions when people are entrenched in their own positions.

By contrast, The team and organization both benefit from finding creative alternatives and win-win solutions to difficult problems through constructive conflict.

Creating Collaboration    

True teamwork and collaboration require that everyone involved in the situation recognize everyone else’s expertise and abilities. Everyone must focus their attention on solving the problem rather than defending their own positions. Each person should be willing to modify their own approach as they gain greater understanding of the views and perspectives of others.

Business employees collaborating

As the team works toward the best solution, a higher level of thinking begins to emerge. Ultimately, the group effort can produce a result that exceeds the sum of the team members’ individual contributions. The diversity in the group’s thinking creates synergy and draws out new ideas.

Reaching a collaborative decision requires open, trusting relationships and candid conversations. Individuals must be able to share information and frank opinions. The goal is to find a solution that will satisfy the interests of all parties involved, one that is integrative, inclusive, and collective. It will take time to reach full understanding and come to a final conclusion that incorporates all perspectives.

Advantages of Successful Collaboration

When the process is cut short and resolved by an authority figure who imposes a direction on the group rather than letting them work it out themselves, the final result can suffer. For collaboration to really work, you must be willing to invest the time, skill, energy, and effort necessary to produce multiple alternatives and allow all members of the group to reach a decision.

The advantages of using a collaborative approach to problem-solving go way beyond simply finding win-win solutions. In addition to devising a more complete and creative decision, team members often benefit greatly from working together. They form new relationships and partnerships that can have a positive impact on future business results. Cross-team or cross-functional collaboration is especially helpful in breaking down silos across departmental boundaries. By working together to solve a problem that affects both groups, all members can learn to understand the needs of other departments—and when all departments and individuals can work together productively, the entire company wins.

Learn More

CMOE helps teams and organizations resolve conflict, reach better decisions, and achieve higher performance through collaboration. Contact CMOE to learn more about how we can help you.

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About the Author


CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.