Why Healthy Conflict Is Healthy

One of the books we make every new employee read at Lifepoint is “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni.  Why?  Because we realize that if we are going to have a great, cohesive, creative staff, they must not shy away from a challenge.  And funny enough, I have been using this ‘business’ book more an more in marriage and pre-marital counseling sessions.

The problem with many people is they think conflict is bad.  Fighting is bad.  We should all be pacifists.  I mean, even Christ said ‘blessed are the peacemakers.’  Can’t we all just get along!

Here is why we think conflict is bad… we’ve always seen it done the wrong way.  People attack people instead of issues.  We see people thrown under the bus.  Feelings are hurt.  Egos are boosted.  Ladders are climbed at the expense of the less vocal and more passive.  Personalities end up manipulating, controlling, and bullying the situation.  This not what I mean by healthy conflict.

What is healthy conflict?

  • It begins with trust.  If we trust each other – that we have the best interests of the organization and each other at heart, we can trust that the brutal facts we hear are in love – and for the betterment of the organization.
  • It maintains HONOR.  Romans 12:10-11 states “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  There is a way to be passionate and yet HONORING AND RESPECTFUL at the same time.
  • It involves everyone in the room.  We are always asking for the last 5%.  Everyone is willing to tell you 95%.  What you need is that last 5% to make an informed decision.  Those who sit silently in a staff meeting with valuable information are just as guilty as those who bully.
  • It works towards a resolution, not a victory.  Conflict within an organization should be for the betterment of the organization, not our advancement.
  • It is done through proper channels.  Disagree privately, not publicly – again that is an honor thing.  Think of the dichotomy of a restaurant – you have a very loud and boisterous kitchen, and a nice calm organized dining room.  Keep your conflict in the kitchen.

What is NOT health conflict.

  • It is not a guarantee.  Just because you get to voice your opinion within a healthy structure does not mean you get your way.  It means your opinion was taken into account.
  • It is not consensus.  Church isn’t a democracy.  And conflict should not be a means to find a way to offend everyone equally.  Because that is what consensus really is – everyone getting disappointed equally.
  • It is not a gripe session.  If you have the guts to engage in health conflict, you better have the guts to engage in the solution-finding.  The worst thing in an organization is a negative ‘can’t do anything right’ culture.  It’s easy to be a critic.  It’s difficult to be part of the solution.  Take the road less traveled.
  • It is not a hammer.  Think of conflict as a ladder not a hammer.  Don’t use it beat people down.  All you are trying to do in conflict is get the best possible perspective.  Health conflict is gaining healthy perspective.

Now here is the hard part.  When you are able to voice your opinion within the proper channels, in the proper way, and the leader makes the decision –  you then go with the decision.  And once the decision is made, everyone must be held to the same standard.  But I promise, if you don’t get this conflict thing down, you wont’ live up to your organizational potential.

Its just like a marriage.  Show me a marriage with no conflict, and I’ll show you a marriage with no passion.

4 thoughts on “Why Healthy Conflict Is Healthy

  1. Shane Anderson

    Wow – I’m late posting but whatever… I’ve been reading the Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey and have begun to see team-building in a whole new light. I’ve read Dysfunctions and love it. It would be awesome if more Christians understood the value of healthy conflict.

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