HR’s Job Should Be to Encourage Conflict

For years we’ve been hearing the drumbeat about making the workplace fun. So, as Amanda Ono tells it, we drank the Kool-Aid, installing ping-pong tables, organizing parties and offering a host of perks.

“But what happens when we wake up from the Koo-Aid hangover and we realize that fun without substance isn’t going to get us very far?” she asks her DisruptHR audience. Everyone likes fun, Ono agrees, but what the best talent, the most highly engaged people care about are “intrinsic values.” “People join companies because they want to grow and they want to develop and they want to learn.”

“They want to disrupt the status quo and really do their very best work.”

HR can facilitate that, says Ono, VP People & Culture at Resolver, by — wait for it — encouraging conflict.

If that seems the very antithesis of HR, it is. At least how most of us think of conflict. The kind Ono presents to a packed Toronto room is the conflict of ideas and opinions. Her kind of conflict is what naturally arises from hearing all views in order to arrive at a better result.

What doesn’t come so naturally is how to channel conflict positively. That’s where HR comes in. “Train people on what healthy conflict means. Train people on how to engage in healthy dialogue.”

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Ono outlines six ideas for HR to use in encouraging positive conflict. Take 5 minutes to hear her formula for building better, more creative teams.

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