How can we use character strengths to transform conflict into synergy? Turning team conflicts into teamwork can be done. Teams at workplaces across the country face this common issue. Between differing ideas, personalities, and challenging situations, conflicts can pop up regularly throughout the workday.
In today’s post, Strong Cincinnati explains why relationships matter in the workplace, how character strengths can be combined for positive and negative results, and how to better navigate challenging relationships while increasing overall team effectiveness.
Why do relationships matter in the workplace?
We spend about 40% of our lives working. Many of us spend more time during the day with our teammates than we do with our closest family or friends! This means that the quality of the relationships we have with our colleagues has a huge impact on both our work experience and our overall wellbeing.
Research by Sarah Pressman at the University of California, Irvine, found that increased health risks – including the probability of dying early is:
- 20% higher for obese people
- 30% higher for excessive drinkers
- 50% higher for smokers, but
- a whopping 70% higher for people with poor social relationships.
“The best thing a manager can do to prevent work stress is to develop good relationships with the employees at work.”- Astrid M. Richardsen
Toxic, stress-filled workplaces affect social relationships and, consequently, life expectancy. That’s why creating a culture that fosters strong relationships and positivity is not just beneficial for productivity and engagement. It dramatically supports employee health & wellbeing.
For employees, the ability to prioritize lifestyle (family and personal interests) while reimagining productivity and purpose are the two main areas of concern, particularly as the Great Resignation continues.
The pandemic and ensuing remote/hybrid options for office workers have amplified the need for creating work environments that build positive connections with colleagues.
How can Character Strengths Lead to Conflicts?
Character strengths can be combined to create positive or negative results. With positive results, we call these strengths synergies. Two or more strengths coming together to create a result that is greater than the strengths used separately. These synergies can happen between two or more people – interpersonal synergies – or they can occur inside one person – intrapersonal synergies.
Examples of strengths synergies include:
- Curiosity + Love of Learning= powerhouse of learning and growth
- Judgement + Creativity=Balance of New Ideas and Assessment of Possibilities
- Love + Curiosity=Meaningful Connections
Unfortunately, character strengths can also be combined and create negative results. Whether the negative result is outright conflict or simmering tension, the outcome can lead to a demoralizing environment. Like synergies, collisions can happen between individuals – interpersonal collisions – or within oneself – intrapersonal collisions.
Examples of strengths conflicts include:
- Kindness + Honesty=Not giving honest feedback to spare the other person’s feelings
- Zest + Self-Regulation=Energetic employee clashing with more reserved team member
- Prudence + Creativity=New ideas being shot down with logic (leading to resentment)
Managing these workplace conflicts starts by understanding and using your core strengths. According to the researchers at VIA Institute of Character, we all have a unique constellation of 24 character strengths.
Leaning on your top “signature” strengths-whether they be perspective, social intelligence, zest, or any of the other 24 strengths-allows you to respond in the moment with authenticity. No matter the stressors you face, knowing your unique strengths and the strengths of your employees can move you from reactive to proactive.
Related Post: How Do You Give Honest Feedback Without Being Hurtful?
3 Ways to Effectively Manage Character Strength Conflicts
Reframe A Conflict through the Lens of Character Strengths
Oftentimes recognizing the conflict or tension through a new lens of strengths can prompt better understanding and create the space for a new synergy to occur. A best-case scenario is to turn a collision into a synergy. For example, the collision that might occur between a person high in prudence and high in creativity can turn into a powerful combination, both sides balancing out the other.
Rethink the Motivation of the Other Person
On the other hand, in some cases it might not be feasible to flip a collision to a synergy for a variety of reasons; sometimes we just don’t gel with others; sometimes the willingness to change isn’t there from both sides. However, even in these situations, a better understanding of where the collision is coming from can lead to better results. Rather than assuming that the other person just doesn’t like you or thinks your ideas are all stupid or doesn’t laugh at your jokes, you might see how different strengths are actually colliding between the two of you.
Redefine your use of your character strengths.
Make sure you’re not overusing or underusing your character strengths. This can intensify collisions. Take Creativity and Prudence for example. When creativity shows up in the right amount at the right time, it looks like originality, new thinking and new ways of doing things that is also adaptive to the situation or context. When prudence shows up in the right amount at the right time, it looks like “wise caution” – identifying potential obstacles, making careful choices, etc. One can easily imagine these two strengths deployed together in this way leading to an amazing dynamic duo – a strengths synergy!
But what if creativity is dialed up a little too much in the moment? At its most extreme, it can show up like an explosion of ideas, all over the map, with little or no consideration for reality or the context of the situation. And, on the opposite end, when prudence is dialed up too high, it looks like putting up walls everywhere – shooting down every single idea and being so cautious that nothing can move forward. It’s easy to see at that point how this use of these two strengths could cause major conflict.
It might also be true that someone who is really high in prudence but low in creativity will be even more sensitive to someone who is even slightly overusing creativity – they might even interpret an appropriate use of creativity as too much. The opposite might also be true – a person high in creativity might tend to shun a colleague who seems overly cautious about everything – a debby downer or a stick in the mud!
So, in this way, we can see how overuse and underuse can intensify strengths collisions and lead to conflict between people or among the members of a team.
Benefits of Using Character Strengths to Manage Conflicts
When managers and employees focus on character strengths, it has a positive impact on their team’s ability to get along, work together, and feel connected. Research on the Strong Cincinnati Institute shows individuals who activate their strengths regularly at work are 18 times more likely to be flourishing.
As individuals and teams know, see, and apply their strengths, organizations see increased communications, improved relationships, and positive feedback. The vast majority also indicated experiencing a greater sense of purpose in their work, are more motivated to do well, and have been more successful in achieving objectives.
Turning Team Conflicts into Teamwork Can Be Done.
By learning your employees’ strengths, building trusting relationships, and finding their priorities, managers will be able to cultivate a positive, strengths-based culture in their teams and organizations. Strengths-based cultures see decreases in absenteeism/turnover and increases in productivity and team morale. Your distinctive strengths are some of your greatest tools. They will help you navigate challenging situations while building trusting relationships with your team.
Contact Mayerson Academy for Strengths-Based Organizational Consulting
If you’re working to transform the culture of your team or organization, don’t struggle alone. Our experienced team of change-makers and consultants is dedicated to helping you and your staff succeed. Start a conversation with us to ﬁnd out about Strong Cincinnati Institute, our six-session cohort-based learning experience that helps promote a positive culture shift within organizations. Connect here or call us at 513-263-2210.
Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace, Christine Porath, April 13, 2019
Good Genes are Nice, but Joy is Better, Harvard Gazette, April 11, 2017
The Silent Killer of Workplace Happiness, Productivity, and Health is a Lack of Basic Civility, Quartz, Updated July 20, 2022