Sometimes conflict must be celebrated in business

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 By Jack Nevison

It's an old saying that nice guys finish last. But who says they have to? Just because people prefer to be kind to each other does not mean they can't challenge others when it is warranted.

In the cutthroat world of business, project managers who are otherwise perfectly nice people have found that, from time to time, they must strongly disagree with other team members. That's okay. As one famous "manager" once said, "It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business."

Of course, if a manager is going to do down that road, he or she should follow the advice offered by Harvard Business Review contributors Ron Ashkenas and Lisa Bodell. Their recent article serves as a reminder that there is a balance to maintain when engaging in a business conflict.

Since managers are in charge, they can start by scheduling regular team meetings where  members are encouraged to discuss important issues face-to-face. This is an excellent way to openly hash out differences and concerns between team leaders and members. Obviously, in situations where criticisms might be flying, it is important to set up certain ground rules. For example, the authors suggest requiring each participant to offer two positive comments before delving into any specific critiques. This technique allows people to speak frankly without coming across as too harsh.

It is also important for managers to support those team members who are comfortable with the role of critic and brave enough to ask difficult questions of leadership. These teammates can set an example for other co-workers, who may be too hesitant to speak up.

New Leaf Project Management's program, "Constructive Project Negotiation," allows participants practice disagreeing in a productive way.

In addition, our free online white papers and QPM, our estimating game, let you learn while you earn affordable PDU credits for PMP recertification.

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