Today, companies are expected to seek more collaborative approaches to project management and completion, policy development and overall satisfaction in the workplace. For companies with longstanding policies and procedures, who wish to keep pace, this transition can be difficult. Opening up the doors to truly listen to what people around you have to think and say can be a challenge for some management team members to act upon. How does one sort out the good from the bad, the legitimate concern from the belly aching? In addition, the multitude of voices may not be singing in harmony.

Individual expectations and hopes of team members are often divergent. Each team member has a different role and therefore contributes emotionally and creatively in a unique fashion, this can contribute to healthy conflict and wonderful insight. How is that possible? If we keep in mind that conflict and disputes are found on different ends of a spectrum and when they are treated mindfully wonderful things can happen. Conflict regularly exists without the need for a dispute. An example of this might be two friends who have a preference for different kinds of ice cream.

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Both hold the belief that their flavour is better than anyone else but it does not inherently lead to any kind of escalation of conflict between them. Disputes however are the articulation of conflict when it manifests into something more official. To provide you with a workplace example of conflict leading to a dispute, one only need look into the boardrooms of an organization carrying on a brainstorming session. When individuals are asked to sit with each other in a boardroom and collaborate to generate ideas, truly creative and wonderful outcomes can be generated by the group.

It is the actual inherent conflict between team members in perspectives that generates ideas and thoughts which can create new solutions, possibilities, and pave new paths. If however, the group leader sets no boundaries to carve out the limitations on feedback to ideas then disputes can find their genesis between group members. All it might take is one comment, or a misguided joke from a group member that leads to someone feeling as though their ideas are less worthy than the rest. The feeling created by the exchange can sow the seeds of a dispute especially if escalation follows the exchange. How can the group leader set proper boundaries?

A quick conversation at the beginning of the brainstorming session to clearly explain the purpose of the session, and the validity of every idea generated. A reminder that feedback is not paramount to brainstorming, the generation of ideas is what is most important. The group leader’s role does not end there however. It is essential that they also play an active role in monitoring the commentary within the group and keep a watchful eye on the dynamics of the group. As the session continues it is imperative that the leader ensures that everyone continues to feel validated and valuable avoiding anyone from storming out.