To Fix Work, Add More Conflict


Thanks for taking on this challenge to think about what needs to happen to make work better.  I loved your post.  I agree that doing away with managers would be a great and giant step in the right direction.  And thank you for sharing the Hamel HBR article.  For those who didn’t click through to read it, do it now.  It will change how you think about management forever.  And it proves that eliminating management isn’t just an anarchist’s rantings, it’s a real workable strategy that is actually being done in a very successful business.

If I had a magic wand to fix work, I’ve decided that the first thing I would do is give everyone who works brilliant conflict skills.  They would know how to have constructive disagreement without making it personal.  They would know how to navigate through heated disagreements in a constructive way.  Because they can do these things, they would engage in a lot of conflict and would appreciate the value and perspective that conflict brings to any relationship or effort when it’s not allowed to become toxic.  Yep, I would magically make everyone a conflict master.

In this conflict friendly world, things work better.  We don’t need many managers because people aren’t afraid to speak their minds and share their opinions.  They freely give each other feedback without fear of backlash.  Performance management becomes something that is part of the culture because people hold each other accountable to performing their jobs rather than expecting someone else to do it.

Meetings are fun because people show up fully engaged and present.  They speak their minds.  They even provide feedback on the meeting as it’s happening if time is being wasted or important topics are being avoided.  Meetings become vibrant exchanges and dynamic debates about things that matter to the business.

The diversity of our teams would be dramatically more rich and broad because we don’t fear people different from us.  We invite the difference because we know that it will likely lead to some productive conflict that will ultimately lead to innovations and breakthroughs.  We would invite people into our workplaces who have very different beliefs than our own and we would discuss those openly in appropriate forums.  Because our conflict skills enable us to engage others without defense, the increased diversity in our workplaces means we are learning more and becoming more culturally enlightened just by nature of showing up to work.

In an ironic and unexpected twist, these conflict skills have also made people significantly happier because they put these same skills to use in their personal lives.  They no longer avoided the important conversations with their spouses and families.  As a result, their relationships at home improved and they were then able to come to work more happy and energized.

So, that’s the first thing I’d do with my magic wand.  I’d give everyone the mastery of conflict.

You eliminated management with your first spell.  What is the next thing you’d do with your magic wand to make work better?




  1. Great concept Jason. The other component of conflict however is confrontation. For years I’ve seen leaders, and staff, who are so uncomfortable with the concept of confronting another person that behaviors are allowed to continue that should have been addressed months, even years earlier.

    Conflict skills are a huge value add, but the ability to step up and handle confrontation effectively separates the true leaders from those that simply want the leader’s paycheck.

  2. Jay, This is a great point. I guess I was making the enormous leap that the reason people fear confrontation is because they lack the skills to be successful within it when it happens. But that is a huge jump and probably naive on my part. I would probably need to wave the magic want a second time for courage and a third for conviction so that each individual would pair these with their master conflict skills to really make a difference.

  3. Pingback: More better work.

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