Productive Conflict

Posted by Bob Corlett on May 18, 2012

This week I had a knock down, drag out fight with one manager in my company. (I was, of course, wrong and later apologized.)

I had another manager say to me "You do realize how abnormal you are compared to other people in the staffing industry, don't you?" (This is how compliments sound around here--so that was a badge of honor).

A third manager told me "As the company grows and adds process and structure, I realize that I'll be increasingly resented for not following any of the rules." (She's our resident pirate--exempt from every rule because of her uncanny ability to serve our clients brilliantly but in her own unique way).

And that's just the tip of the conflict iceberg this week. Of course we've had one of our most productive weeks ever. But not a week without frustrations. I call it productive conflict and it's built into almost all of our processes. There are never quite enough resources to go around, or enough time to do anything to a perfectionist standard. We always raise the bar before we get too comfortable. It spurs growth.

They key to making productive conflict work for us is safety, civility and respect. Nobody was in fear of losing their job or status. Nobody was ever disrespectful to each other (well, by our standards anyway). And we were all working toward a common goal--serving our clients well.

I've always said that our employees are welcome to break any rule as long as it's in service to our clients. We like having pirates on board, relish being different, and welcome a spirited debate.

Topics: Hiring Managers