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Productive Conflict

-Carola Mittag
Sometimes I have difficulty deciding what I should write about. As you can imagine, I do a lot of reading and so many ideas come from this pastime that choosing my topic is a struggle.

I came across the words “productive conflict” which caught my attention. Isn’t all of life really about productive conflict? Just in choosing this topic I thought that I had mastered productive conflict for this month by selecting it over the many other topics.

When people organize to challenge and change their lives for the better both personally, or in the workplace, it can only be beneficial. Enter “productive conflict”.

At this time of year, this may be in the form of New Year’s resolutions which, if we’re honest, are short-lived and notoriously unsuccessful. We know that making changes to our lifestyle “would” be productive but are conflicted because it would mean making changes that are uncomfortable and require hard work. While we know that the long-term benefits will be positive, we are reluctant because our bad habits conflict with the productivity aspect.

It is no different in the workplace. All change is difficult and requires participation by everyone to be effective. When employers and employees alike challenge themselves to make changes then, because of and in spite of “productive conflict”, positive changes can occur to everyone’s benefit. I believe that productive conflict is a powerful tool that supports the Internal Responsibility System.

Every idea that is put forward must be challenged for its value and merit. If an employer makes a suggestion for changing the way something is done this may very well conflict with the way workers have done things in the past and they may be reluctant to change. At this point, it is only at the conflict stage. It is up to the employer to turn this negative into a productive outcome through creativity and sometimes incentive for making the suggested change.

When employees suggest changes for more efficient work processes, the need for better equipment, or improved safety protocols these may conflict with an employer’s view that everything is just fine. Here we are at the conflict stage. The employees are challenged to demonstrate that the suggested improvements will result in improved efficiency. This turns the conflict into productivity.

Remember the Staples commercials from years ago where the red EASY button was available and when pressed, it solved everyone’s problems? Well, I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy; I’m telling you productive conflict will be worth it.

How we challenge each other and ourselves and how those challenges are met in every aspect of our lives hinge upon productive conflict.



Watch for next month’s Blog published in the first week of February.


Carola Mittag

Consultant and Editor for Mentor Safety Consultants Inc.