“You don’t have to marry them, but you do have to work with them.”
You’ve undoubtedly heard this old adage uttered by a well-meaning teacher at least once during your grade school days. And while you may have rolled your eyes back then, learning to solve conflict amongst your team members is a valuable soft skill with long-term career benefits.
Besides, conflict arises more and more frequently as the world continues to globalize and different types of teams, work styles, and cultures come together to achieve a common goal. Because of this, resolving conflict efficiently, as well as preventing future conflicts from ever occurring in the first place, will only continue to grow in relevancy in the years to come.
Trond Varlid, president and cofounder of EMC Quest K.K., understands how difficult managing conflict can be. He’s spent years coaching executives on managing workplace conflict, effective team leadership, and other relationship conflict solutions.
In his GLOBIS Unlimited course, Varlid explores the negative impact of team conflict in the workplace, the role cultural conflict plays in the modern workplace, and the positive outcomes of prioritizing team performance over personal disagreements.
How does cultural conflict impact a team?
Trond Varlid: I, for many years, worked in Europe and Asia in management, and one of the most common and most difficult challenges was conflict management. And even now, students frequently come to me and ask for advice on how to deal with the conflicts they’re having with other people.
Conflict can take many forms in the context of a working environment.
At one end of the spectrum—which hopefully you won’t have to experience too often—people might be shouting at each other. And at the other end, it could take the form of people just sulking or keeping their head down or, sort of in very passive ways, showing they are unhappy with some other person.
What is the basis for most team conflicts?
Varlid: There are many reasons why conflicts occur.
A very common one that I often see is that most of us, we tend to equate our own idea and our own opinion with our own person. And it also means we tend to do the same with the other person.
So we associate somebody’s opinion or idea with them as a person. And if you disagree with my opinion, and especially if you strongly criticize it, I may easily take it as a personal attack on me as a person.
That’s one of the most common ways of conflict among people in the workplace.
Is quiet quitting a result of team conflict?
Varlid: Recently, we also have the expression “quiet quitting,” which you could say is a kind of conflict, as well.
Usually, it’s taken to mean that people are not happy with their current job for some reason, or with what they’re doing. They don’t quit the company but stay only to do the absolute minimum, and certainly do not perform to the maximum of their potential.
That could also be sometimes, in some ways, conflict related.