Challenging the Conflict Culture Means Addressing Problems
The pandemic and the economic shutdowns have created a unique workplace environment that has exposed the nature of the conflict culture of many organizations because of three critical areas overlapping simultaneously:
- feelings of fear, anxiety, and vulnerability triggered by the presence of COVID-19 and the “knock-on” effects from the lockdown in the US
- low-trust, dysfunctional communication environments, and work cultures pre-COVID-19 being translated to a space of remote working where employees have more agency and control,
- the lack of critical, remote infrastructure beyond the “webinar” or “app” add-on culture, promoted by large SaaS and LMS organizations without critical support and development mechanisms built into the learning process.
Conflict culture translates from in-person to online work environments after a short period of time.
These three critical areas, operating independently and concurrently are serving to put pressure on conflict cultures already spread thin from the impact of COVID-19.
Challenging the Conflict Culture Means not Doing ‘More of the Same’
Leaders at the middle management level in organizations are challenged and the skills sets they’ve developed to address problems may not serve them in the “new normal.”
However, careful examination of the critical areas above reveals a way out of this situation
- Leaders must address the feelings of fear, anxiety, and vulnerability in order to have immediate success and to begin the process of developing trust,
- Leaders must acknowledge the past and admit that their team environments might now have been conducive to building a sense of trust and safety,
- Leaders must be courageous an lean into training and development solutions that are “high touch” even in a touchless, remote environment.
If leaders can accomplish even two of these three goals, then they will transform their work cultures dramatically.
Challenging the Conflict Culture Means Taking Risks
Yes, changing the conflict culture of a workplace in a post-COVID world, will require leaders to begin within and them move onto all those “other people” who are retreating via Zoom.
Yes, changing the conflict culture of a workplace in a post-COVID world will be unpopular, particularly if the people inside the organization like the outcomes they were getting from conflict, low-trust, dysfunctional communication, and getting with continuing that behavior online.
No leader of a workplace in a post-COVID world is going to gain enough permission, reassurances, or hedges against outcomes occurring that may be suboptimal, so taking risks in the midst of massive disruption is the key to the risks producing optimal outcomes.
Yes, changing the conflict culture of a workplace in a post-COVID world will require leaders to take risks with courage.
But not one significant innovation—of people, products, processes, or philosophies—has ever occurred without the changes that conflict—and the confrontation of conflict—brings.
And if a workplace culture truly wants to innovate, then changing the conflict culture is the first innovation leaders must embark upon.