Conflict and creativity at work – you CAN have both

January 4, 2018
 

It happens all too often in the creative workplace these days – people don’t say what’s on their minds for fear of being called out or discounted, just for the sake of avoiding conflict. Instead, they complain to friends or family, and bad feelings fester.

But it is possible to have a successful business environment with a little bit of healthy conflict. Metis founding partner Cathy Atkins shared tips for getting it right in a recent article for Forbes. Cathy says it is possible to foster this type of culture.

Here are her best tips for cultivating creative conflict to get positive results.

Don’t forget why you do the work you do.

Managers should let team members explore and find what drives their passions. Try to keep your people happy, and get out of their way, so they can flourish. Sometimes opinions may differ, but everyone should have the same goal in mind – to move the business forward.

Opposites do attract – and that goes for the workplace, too.

Match up people who have completely different styles and then leave them to it. For example, if you have a teammate who overanalyzes and loves processes, pair her with someone who loves to simplify. Have someone who is a little more introverted? Put him with someone chatty and let them work out the awkward silence together. People who get on each other’s nerves can come together and create something beautiful.

Gently push people out of their comfort zones, and then leave them alone. 

Helping people to do their best work is not without its speed bumps. Recognize the effect you have on people as you nudge them out of their comfort zones, and change your delivery if it’s not working. People need time and space to process their thoughts, form a plan and execute it. Even if they need to collaborate with others first, most people need some alone time to make sense of what’s in their own heads. Baby steps are good here.

Be positive.

Just because someone disagrees with your idea, or provides a better path/solution/shortcut/etc. does not mean they have set out to destroy you or take over. Give others the benefit of the doubt and lead with a positive point of view. This will help you work through any internal (or external) conflicts folks may be struggling with. Everyone is entitled to a bad day; that does not make them bad people.

JUST SAY NO to gossiping and complaining.

Office gossip sucks. There is no value in complaining and whining without offering thoughts or resolutions – even if the complainers are creative types. If your most creative employee is infecting others with negativity, cut the cord. It is not healthy in the long run and can be detrimental to progress. 

It’s OK to push your team out of their comfort zones. In fact, it’s essential, so reward awkwardness, tension and constructive conflict to fuel creative results.

 

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