The answer to organizational conflict isn’t conflict resolution training. The answer isn’t team-building either. Both can be a form of organizational conflict avoidance.
Why you can’t train or team-build your way out of organizational conflict
- Training is about taking your team and helping it move to the next higher level of performance. If there’s enough conflict that you’ve sought out a trainer to help you, there’s other work you need to do first.
- Team and organizational conflict interferes with optimal learning. When troubling conflict is lurking in the training room, people are not at their best and the likelihood of their successfully deploying new approaches is rather dismal.
- Learning new conflict management approaches and skills doesn’t translate automatically into elegant use of them. Even top-notch training and the best circumstances can leave a gap between what people know and what people do (unless you and your trainer have a plan to address this … you should, you know).
- People central to organizational or team conflict know the training is really directed at them. They’re not fools. It puts them in an awkward position that doesn’t contribute to good learning.
- People uninvolved in the conflict suspect the training is really intended for others. That suspicion can be a real de-motivator and feel like a waste of their valuable time. Even if it’s true they could use the new approaches and skills, they may not see it that way because of the circumstances in which the training was initiated.
- Training doesn’t address the conflict. If conflict is complicated enough that you’ve sought out training to get some relief from it, it’s likely that what it will take to address the conflict is to…address the conflict.
Is organizational conflict resolution training ever useful?
Of course it is. When your organizational or department house is generally in order, conflict resolution training helps you and your team:
- Learn efficient, effective frameworks for problem-solving and conflict resolution.
- Understand the signals of healthy conflict and the warning signs of escalating conflict.
- Develop a common language for engaging conflict and solving problems.
- Make better business decisions by learning how to tap the opportunity conflict offers without the danger of conflict running amok.
What to do if you have organizational conflict and would also like your team to learn better approaches
Start by sorting out the conflict that’s getting in the way of business and work. Arrange for training after that. And arrange for support after the training to help your team put into practice what they’ve just learned.