scorecardA Harvard negotiation expert thinks we need to embrace more conflict at work
  1. Home
  2. Careers
  3. news
  4. A Harvard negotiation expert thinks we need to embrace more conflict at work

A Harvard negotiation expert thinks we need to embrace more conflict at work

Sawdah Bhaimiya   

A Harvard negotiation expert thinks we need to embrace more conflict at work
Careers2 min read
  • A Harvard negotiation expert advises people to embrace conflict at work to have better job satisfaction.
  • William Ury told Forbes that "a productive work environment should not suppress conflict."

Avoiding conflict at work may seem like a sensible option, but a Harvard negotiation expert says this will lead to greater job dissatisfaction.

William Ury, the founder of Harvard University's Program on Negotiation and the author of "Getting to Yes," spoke with Forbes about navigating and embracing workplace conflict.

"I often state, somewhat provocatively, that we actually need more conflict at work, specifically the kind that's constructive—what you might call 'creative friction,'" he said in an interview with Forbes.

"Just as in healthy marriages, where partners don't shy away from issues, a productive work environment should not suppress conflict."

Ury explained that people back away from conflicts because it makes them uncomfortable, but that this can ultimately make things worse.

"Avoidance doesn't resolve the underlying issues — it often makes them worse," he said. "My suggestion is counterintuitive: lean into the conflict, embrace it, and transform it. Instead of meeting conflict with animosity, we should approach it with curiosity to foster better outcomes."

Ury offered advice on how to tackle difficult conversations with a boss, from asking for a raise to negotiating different work conditions.

"Instead of avoiding tough conversations with your boss, which might lead to job dissatisfaction or even resignation, consider initiating a constructive dialogue," he says.

Ury suggests a strategy he called "going to the balcony," which involves taking a step back and understanding and identifying your needs and goals. This means digging into the underlying reasons you might want a raise.

Work can be like being back at school

Workplace expert Rosalind Wiseman, author of "Queen Bees and Wannabes," which was the inspiration for the 2004 "Mean Girls" film, previously spoke with Business Insider about the parallels between corporate politics and drama during high school.

Like high schoolers, employees can also feel excluded, taken advantage of, or bullied in scenarios such as not being invited to a work social or if someone takes credit for their work.

Wiseman explained that people might naturally refer back to the same "coping skills or behaviors" they used when they were teenagers, but this could hurt them.

One example she gave was being too scared to ask for a raise because they fear it will hurt them or that they will be punished in some way. That fear might prevent them from speaking up and switching jobs.

"But the chances are that you're going to find the same problem," Wiseman said, advising people to confront these issues more directly.




Advertisement