How to Overcome Fear of Organizational Conflict
Not many people enjoy conflict. But while it may seem impossible to figure out how to overcome fear of organizational conflict, it’s essential to productivity and team building. While it takes guts to confront a problem head-on, allowing a problem to fester only allows it to grow worse. Small problems can become big ones if not addressed.
Let’s talk about how conflict can be healthy and productive and how you can overcome your fear of stirring the pot.
Discovering the Benefits of Healthy Conflict
Unfortunately, there’s no work environment completely free from any level of conflict. Even if you work alone, you can still have conflict with yourself or your clients.
But believe it or not, conflict can be a good thing.
While shouting matches and aggressive tones are never healthy, that’s not the only way you can experience or express conflict. When you break it down, conflict just comes down to disagreement. And it’s okay to disagree on things. If the entire company always agrees on every single decision or issue, then nothing creative or new is happening. It also means that either the company is made of yes-men, or people are likely lying about how they feel about a decision but are too afraid to speak up.
Healthy conflict invites discussion. Discussion begets the introduction of new ideas. Those new ideas can bounce off of each other to create something entirely new. Emotionally intelligent people can tell the difference between a healthy discussion and an argument. When everyone feels free to disagree and introduce new ideas, the entire team will become stronger.
3 Methods on How to Overcome Fear of Organizational Conflict
So now that you know that conflict isn’t a bad word, it’s time to figure out how to overcome a fear of organizational conflict.
Even though it may feel scary at first, in the end, you’ll be a part of a group of team members that feels free to speak openly and try new things.
1. Convince Yourself It’s Worth It to Speak Up
The first step to figuring out how to overcome a fear of organizational conflict is convincing yourself it’s worth it to introduce conflict.
Think about something happening that you disagree with. How much better would it be if the person listened to your side? Do you want things to just stick to the status quo forever?
Say Brad always works out during his lunch break. When he comes back, he takes off his shoes, puts up his feet on your shared desk divider, and you have to deal with stinky Brad’s feet all afternoon.
Do you want to work somewhere when you’re subjected to stinky Brad feet from 1:00pm to 5:00pm for the rest of your life?
What if you plucked up the courage to ask Brad to keep his shoes on and feet on the floor? How much better would your life be without stinky Brad feet?
If you make a reasonable request, you aren’t avoiding conflict and letting your hatred for Brad grow by the day. If you face the problem, things will likely be better on the other side. Even if it might be uncomfortable to talk to Brad about his feet.
Need help on how to start that conversation? Talk with HR.
2. Get an Outside Opinion
When deciding whether or not to take a stand and create organizational conflict, it’s helpful to know you aren’t alone. By getting an objective outsider’s perspective, you can feel validated in your decision. You can decide if this is an issue where you want to take a stand.
Say Michael sent over the copywriting for the latest newsletter. For the notice on the new coffee maker in the breakroom, Michael wrote “Office Babes Buy Banging Coffee Pot for Breakroom.” You absolutely hate the way he worded this. But to make completely sure that you have an objective view on the issue, you bring it up to a friend outside of work who doesn’t know Michael. After all, you’ve told Michael before to make a lot of edits and you don’t want to seem like you’re piling on.
Once your friend tells you that “Office Babes” should not be included in any newsletter ever, you’ll feel more empowered to take a stand.
3. Don’t Let Yourself Catastrophize
It’s easy to immediately jump to the worst-case scenario. Many people struggle with catastrophic thinking. That’s when your brain jumps multiple steps ahead of you, latching on to the worst possible outcome before you’ve even taken the first step.
When you think about disagreeing with someone, do you think about what they will say? Do you think about what will happen after they react?
To keep yourself in the present, you can only think about how you are going to control the situation. Focus on your choices and what you want to say. You can’t be going through mental gymnastics trying to predict the future. All you can do is stay fixated on your own decisions and what you should do. How someone reacts to your healthy conflict is outside of your control and also not your responsibility. Avoiding conflict out of fear of what someone might do if you said something only lets the elephant in the room grow bigger.
Is Your Company the Source of Your Fear?
You’ve tried everything on this list. But it just doesn’t work. Try as you might, nobody hears you, and you still don’t know how to overcome fear of organizational conflict.
The problem is that you can only have healthy organizational conflict in a healthy work environment. If your leaders don’t trust employees to have better ideas than leadership, then they won’t be receptive to feedback. You can’t flourish in an environment where your comments are seen as dissention. Part of overcoming fear of conflict is having a safe place to do so. If you aren’t free to express your disagreements, you’ll never feel safe speaking up.
And if you can’t fully express yourself, it’s time to find a new place to work.
Author, Artist, Photographer.
Sarah Margaret is an artist who expresses her love for feminism, equality, and justice through a variety of mediums: photography, filmmaking, poetry, illustration, song, acting, and of course, writing.
She owns Still Poetry Photography, a company that showcases her passion for capturing poetic moments in time. Instead of poetry in motion, she captures visual poetry in fractions of a second, making cherished keepsakes of unforgettable moments.
She is the artist behind the Still Poetry Etsy shop, which houses her illustrations and bespoke, handmade items. She is the author of intricacies are just cracks in the wall, a narrative poetry anthology that follows a young woman discovering herself as she emerges from an abusive relationship.