Controversy in the Workplace

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on February 5, 2007

Politics, religion, corporate scandals, international conflict—do you and your employees feel comfortable talking about controversial subjects in the workplace?

While many of us try to avoid controversy and seek quick resolutions to thorny topics and situations, meaningful conflict can be a cornerstone in healthy, successful workplaces. It is also a must for effective problem solving and open, honest interpersonal relationships.

Controversy is uncomfortable, and many individuals do not know how to manage conflict in a positive way. People can get hurt and become defensive, which in turn may lead to tension in an environment where people must work together and support each other. However, when effectively managed, controversy and disagreement have many positive results for an organization, including the exploration of different ideas and opinions, better decision-making, and a broader scope of options.

Experts agree that if you are unwilling or unable to openly and actively articulate the tough subjects, you will never accomplish the things that are important to you at work. Knowing how to raise issues and participate in meaningful conflict is a critical key to success in work and in life.

Here are some things to consider:

• Does your organization provide opportunities for interpersonal relationships, problem solving, conflict resolution, and particularly, nondefensive communication?

• Does your corporate culture promote the notion that differences in ideas and beliefs are welcome and expected, that healthy debate is the expectation, and that all opinions are equal?

• Finally, does your organization recognize, reward, and thank people who are willing to take a stand and support their position?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, the next question you might want to ask yourself is, what can I do to change that?

Mallary Tytel
President and Founder
Healthy Workplaces
Sioux Falls, S.D.

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