Contrary to what some might believe, conflict in the workplace should be embraced — not avoided.
This is the theory behind “The Beauty of Conflict,” a new business improvement book by CrisMarie Campbell and Susan Clarke.
“Any time there’s more than two people trying to rally around some sort of idea, vision or purpose, that’s going to create differences,” Clarke said. “We are not well-trained on how to deal with that tension and potential conflict, and we think that most of the time a lot of training has been about how to defuse that versus wanting that tension and lean into it.”
Campbell and Clarke have been using the idea of harnessing the benefits of conflict for the last 15 years in their business, Thrive!, a coaching and consulting service.
“A lot of times we go into a business and the leader’s like, ‘I just need my team to work together so we can get to the results.’ And what we’re saying is you actually have to slow down that process and develop actual real relationships and clear up differences so people trust each other and can relax,” Campbell said. “When people relax, then they’re going to come up with creative ideas and innovative solutions.”
Through their work with Thrive!, the two have seen both sides of conflict. In some businesses, conflict and differences are to be avoided entirely. In others, fighting with coworkers is seen as the goal. Neither of these scenarios are what Campbell and Clarke advocate.
“We’ve all grown up with different models of conflict — mine was, ‘You don’t disagree with my dad’ — so I learned to just get rid of conflict. But it’s really this energy source that drives creativity on teams,” Campbell said. “People think conflict is all about fighting and arguing, we’re not saying that. We’re saying it’s the tension of our ideas meeting and bumping into each other, which feels uncomfortable because we like to get along and agree with each other.”
While the book is aimed at the people Campbell and Clarke have spent the last 15 years helping, like business owners and people in leadership roles, Campbell said the book is really for anyone dealing with interpersonal conflict.
Working through conflicts is difficult, both Campbell and Clarke acknowledge that, but astonishing results could lie on the other side of that conflict.
“It’s not a formula, it really is something that you have to kind of continually work at. And it can be very messy and very not straightforward,” Clarke said. “Sometimes you’re going to get to great creative ideas and sometimes you’re going to walk away feeling icky, but if you hang into that, that’s when the possibility is there.”
Campbell and Clarke will host a book launch event Wednesday, Nov. 8 from 5 to 7 p.m. in The Flat above Wasabi, 419 East Second Street. The event will feature wine, champagne, appetizers and a book signing. Those wishing to attend should RSVP to Jodi Newton, Thrive! Executive Assistant, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Beauty of Conflict is available on Amazon.com as well.