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Conflict is messy - it requires time & intentionality

Updated: Jun 6, 2022

Conflict is messy.

None of us pops out of the womb with all the skills needed to effectively navigate conflict. Building those muscles requires us to constantly practice and reflect on what we learn, embracing messiness and imperfection along the way. We have to be willing to try new things, making space for new approaches as our teams and organizations are constantly changing and evolving. This requires us to intentionally disrupt white supremacy patterns of perfectionism by cultivating organizational norms and practices that frame mistakes as inevitable learning opportunities.

Navigating conflict requires time and intentionality.

Building our conflict muscles takes time and requires a great deal of emotional and intellectual energy. As we juggle the many demands of our work and capitalism’s relentless pressure to quickly produce, it can be challenging to lean into the constructive conflict that is a natural part of a diverse and inclusive workplace. We are constantly facing competing priorities that claim our limited time and energy. Protecting the time needed to truly do this work is key. Navigating conflict often requires more than one meeting or conversation. It also takes time to build our conflict muscles and put them into practice.

This reality requires those in leadership positions to consider:

  • What support does my staff need to lean into conflict?

  • What structural changes are needed to create the space, time, and resources needed for our organization to cultivate a culture that can normalize and successfully navigate conflict?

  • Is our timeline still realistic? Do we need to make more time in our meetings and/or project timeline to constructively navigate conflict?

Avoiding conflict can cause harm.

Often, the fear of causing harm or making things worse prevents people from leaning into conflict. The hard truth is that avoiding conflict can also cause or deepen harm. Avoidance rarely gets us anywhere helpful, often allowing things to get worse. We have to be careful not to assume we know what others need or what is best for everyone. We must respect one another by allowing each other to articulate our experience and name what we need in order navigate our shared conflict. Attending to the wellbeing of our team requires us to be honest and vulnerable with one another in order to press into messy and constructive conflict together.

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