Controversy in the Office

Politics, religion, corporate scandals, international conflict—do you feel comfortable talking about controversial subjects at work?

While many of us try to avoid controversy and seek quick resolutions, meaningful conflict can be a cornerstone in healthy, successful organizations and is a must for effective problem-solving and open, honest interpersonal relationships. Controversy is uncomfortable, and many people do not know how to manage conflict in a positive way. People can get hurt or become defensive, and the results may lead to contention in an environment where people must work together and support each other. However, when effectively managed, controversy and disagreement have many positive results for an organization—including the exploration of different ideas and opinions, better decision-making, and a broader scope of options.

Knowing how to raise issues and participate in meaningful conflict is a critical key to success for your small business. Consider:

•Does your company provide opportunities and support in interpersonal relationships, problem solving, conflict resolution, and particularly, non-defensive communication?

•Does your corporate culture promote the notion that differences in ideas and beliefs are welcome and expected, that healthy debate is the expectation, and that all opinions are equal?

•Finally, does your organization recognize, reward, and thank people who are willing to take a stand and support their position?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, your next question might be: What can I do to change that?

Mallary Tytel CEO and founder Healthy Workplaces Bolton, Conn.