Pulling Together

Mediation and Business Consulting by Kathleen Kauth.

Merriam-Webster states the definition of conflict as… 1: FIGHT, BATTLE, WAR an armed conflict; 2a: competitive or opposing action of incompatibles : antagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons).  


For most of us, conflict refers to definition #2 – divergent ideas, interests or persons.  There is a time and place for this sort of conflict in businesses. 

Conflict isn't necessarily bad


The perfect time for there to be conflicting ideas within an organization or team is when information is being processed and decisions are being made about the direction of the company or project.  Divergent ideas encourage people to think through options they may not have addressed.  It provides new information and the process of discussing the ramifications of new information makes for much better solutions.  Conflict can be used effectively as a tool to test and assess potential options.  When a workplace is trained and supported in using conflict appropriately – they can be exceptionally successful.


When conflict is used incorrectly


When conflict is used incorrectly however, it can result in sabotaging projects and people, causing inefficiencies in time and materials, and destroying morale in the workplace.  So how do you create an atmosphere of welcoming positive conflict, and eliminating negative conflict?  


Doing it right


For conflict to be used effectively, the entire organization – top to bottom – must be trained in the appropriate ways conflict can be used.  Some key ingredients are:

1.  It must be open and direct:  There can be no hidden agendas, no talking behind people's back, and no lying.  When everyone in a company understands that they can ask questions, present new information or disagree with something while it is in the planning stages, conflict can be used appropriately.

2.  No punishment:  There can not be negative consequences for those who play devils' advocate, or identify flaws in a plan.  Identifying weaknesses and presenting new options will only make a project stronger.  Those individuals who question information, present new ideas or disagree are performing a valuable service.

3.  There is a time and a place: Conflicting opinions are most successfully vetted at the beginning of a project.  This is why it is important for there to be a culture of openness to divergent ideas.  If options and potential obstacles are thoroughly vetted at the beginning of a process, there is much less sunk-cost fallacy.  Sunk-cost fallacy is when an unsuccessful course of action is followed primarily because so much time and money has already been put into it.  Once objections and different options to a plan have been investigated and discussed, and the group has come to a decision – the time for conflict over the direction of the project is over.  There may be more over minor details of how to accomplish the goals of the project as it progresses – but everyone should be behind the actual goal.


Pulling together


Once differing opinions and divergent ideas are thoroughly vetted, and everyone is onboard with the direction of a project or goal, the organization can move forward as a team working together, pulling in the same direction.  


Kathleen Kauth

Kathleen Kauth is President/Owner of K.T. Beck Enterprises, LLC a Mediation and Business Consulting firm which focuses on using Mediation techniques to help individuals, families and businesses resolve conflicts. With areas of interest in Eldercare and Business Mediation, we are able to provide a wide variety of personalized services.   MORE >

Featured Mediators

View all

Read these next


Coming Soon To Your State? The Uniform Mediation Act

The Uniform Mediation Act is now being introduced in state legislatures. In every state there are Uniform Law Commissioners, whose role is to work to replace their state's existing laws...

By Ron Kelly - Arbitrator, Mediator, Trainer

Advanced Decision Tree Analysis In Litigation: An Interview With Marc Victor, Part I

From John DeGroote's Settlement Perspectives A .pdf version of this advanced decision tree is available here. Decision Tree Analysis isn’t new to litigation, and it isn’t new to this site...

By John DeGroote

What Does Fairness Have to do with It?

PGP Mediation Blog by Phyllis G. Pollack In my years as a mediator, it has struck me that the smaller the dispute, the harder it is to settle. And, I...

By Phyllis Pollack

Find a Mediator