Redirect Negative Energy into Productive Conflict

A coworker recently shared with me that as they were walking into their building on their way to work, they overheard a small group of individuals complaining about some situation in the workplace. The negative energy from their conversation affected his mood for quite a while that morning. These are difficult times. We can’t keep people from grumbling and expressing frustration. We can work to redirect that wasted negative energy into a positive pursuit.


“Conflict is simply the energy created by the gap between what we want and what we’re experiencing,” says Nate Regier, a former practicing psychologist and author of Conflict Without Casualties (Berrett-Koehler, 2017). “If we define conflict as energy that’s created by the gap, then the real question is ‘How are we going to use that energy?”


As leaders, we need to recognize that conflict:

  • Doesn’t need to be destructive
  • Should be leveraged rather than “managed” or “controlled”
  • Can be handled with compassion. Taking a compassionate approach could mean healthier and productive conflict.


To promote healthy conflict in your workplace try these three tips:

  • Be more open. Seek to understand. Get out amongst your staff and listen. Ask how they are doing with the transition. Ask how they are feeling. Don’t tell them how they should feel. Just listen and validate what they are feeling. This information can be taken into account when communicating to the team as a whole and discussing strategy with senior leadership.
  • Be more resourceful. Ask others for their thoughts and what they see as a possible solution. Avoid judgment and clarify if there are misunderstandings or incorrect facts. Often people see a situation and create a story of how it is in their head. That may be far from reality. Even if there is some information that cannot be shared, it is important to be as transparent as possible to clear up myths or false stories.
  • Be persistent. To turn negative feelings into something positive will take action and follow through. It’s not a one and done situation. See things through with integrity and respect. Now more than ever, communicate clearly and frequently. Set clear goals and expectations. Hold others accountable. Acknowledge when mistakes have been made and try to make it right. We all have a role to play in this. Nobody can sit back and be passive.


It’s important to state that in order for there to be productive, positive conflict, there needs to be trust on a team. Trust is the foundation. If you would like ideas or help building trust, please reach out. I’m invested in your success and would love to be a resource to anyone.


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