Opposites attract, right?
Well as far as magnets go, yes, but when it comes to organisations it doesn’t always seem to hold. I’ve just finished reading an interesting post from Alison Chisnell, which is well worth a read on why organisations hire for compatibility rather than capability and it’s the following line that provoked this post:
“In my view, organisations and senior management teams don’t have to be harmonious or devoid of conflict and issues to be effective”
I couldn’t agree with Alison more. In fact I personally think the best organisations are rife with conflict but the right kind of conflict.
Some time ago I wrote a post about the gender pay gap and women in senior roles. If you care to read it, it’s linked here but one of the articles cited there said this:
“Organisations benefit from “feminine leadership” with the challenge facing organisations the need for competitiveness, aggression and task orientation (what could be considered male traits) are seen as less valuable than good communication, coaching, being intuitive, flexible and more people orientated in general (stereotypically female characteristics).” (Powell et al, 2002)
It seems to me that some conflict in the work place is about land grabbing, jostling for position, ego, politics and the type of win/lose behaviour that leaves the business fighting itself rather than focussing its energies on resolving issues and improving its position versus the competition.
Positive constructive conflict is good. It takes two (or more) points of view and challenges them to scrutiny to find the best route forward for the business but the focus is on best for the business not best for the individual. Some of the people I have respected most in my career are those who are secure enough in themselves to come out the other side and say “I was wrong, your way is better”.
I once worked with a very strong minded Head of Operations and we would fight like cat and dog in the meeting but once we’d got to agreement we’d walk out of the room, one would buy the other a coffee and get on with our day. It wasn’t personal, it was business. We were MEANT to have different points of view, we saw the world very differently and it was in the conflict between those two views that we got to some great outcomes for the business.
Whether it’s having more feminine characteristics or indeed females in the organisation, improving individual self awareness, giving people confidence to admit they can be wrong or the business being focussed on not indulging in political behaviour I’m not sure. It seems to me the more organisations can fight the good fight and move on to improving the better they will be for it.
A coach once said to me, “you don’t have to be disagreeable to disagree”. He got his bill paid without question but I’m still working on it….
Powell, G.N., Butterfield, D.A., Parent, J.D., (2002) “Gender and Managerial Stereotypes: Have the Times Changed?” Journal of Management, 28(2)