What can fear of conflict do to a team?
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Most of us like to think that a perfect team would always agree on everything and be all smiles and happy thoughts. There would be no fighting, no conflicts and no questioning others. A team full of great minds that think alike. Everyone would get along very well and decisions and deadlines would be easy to achieve on time. This is not realistic or even the best outcome.
When a team fears conflict, no honest opinions will come out. When discussing projects, one would get their word out and others will act like they agree on that matter. This means the team will end up doing things that half of the team does not agree with. One team member might have even facts that prove that those things will not work but because of the fear of conflict will not come forward. This is not ideal and will not get the team much further.
Most of us fear debating on things, even though asking questions and doubting is healthy when it´s done the right way. When we ask questions, we are addressing things that would come up eventually anyway. Addressing these issues right in the beginning will give the team time to figure out solutions for these matters. If everyone can give their honest opinion on a matter the team will get more point of views and start to look at things differently. Thus, it is also very important that not all team members think alike. A well-functioning team need people with different opinions and experiences. Different perspectives. The saying “great minds think alike” is thus misleading. If everyone in the team would think alike, the results would be boring and no way near innovative.
When a team fears conflict, they can not be honest about their feelings. Someone from the team might be hurting their feelings for example, saying rude comments about other people. With the fear of conflict this person might not want to tell anyone. They rather just sit quiet and take the comments. This is not helping them feel better but it is also not helping the team. The person saying those comments might not know that is wrong. With the team fearing conflict they might never find out and will keep doing this for others.
Keeping those things to yourself will only make the thing bigger. It might be so that after a while, bad feelings that started with just one little comment have build up bigger anger inside and will burst eventually into a big fight. Addressing these problems early enough will give both parties opportunity to talk about their feelings.
When a team gets too comfortable it might be hard to address any issues. You are seeing them as your friends and feel like it would be hurting your friendship if those matters would come up. For example, when someone is being late to every meeting and you are annoyed by it. Because they are your friends you are willing to let that go but inside you feel disrespected every time they come late. It goes both ways, while having a familiar team around it can become easy to bend the rules a bit. You know that they will not get mad because you are such good friends.
When team fears conflict, the company will not get the best out of them. Many billion-dollar ideas might just slide away because one of the team members did not come forward. Another example might be with the behavior of one team member. It might be affecting the results of the sales team when two of them are not addressing their problems. This will eventually lower the profits of the team and thus harm the company.
The manager of the team is responsible of leading by example and showing that it is okay to have conflicts in a team. It will only make the team stronger and perform better.
The manager can also arrange feedback sessions and the team can learn together how to give good and bad feedback. The words you use when addressing a problem have a huge impact on the outcome of the situation. For example, if an employee makes a mistake and the person in charge yells at him/her for being dumb, it might have a slightly different outcome than if the person tells them nicely that this was not okay. If feedback is given the wrong way the person receiving it might defend themselves and try to blame others. This might lead to others not wanting to give feedback anymore because one can not take it good in their opinion. This will create a toxic circle where no one will give feedback and all the feeling will be hidden.
It is not just the business that will be affected by the fear of conflict in a team. How can one grow as a person if they do not know what they could improve on?
Giving feedback the right way is a skill that can be learned. In today’s world when everyone is trying to please everyone you can stand out for being honest in a good way. They might not seem like that at the moment but they will appreciate your honesty later.