Saturday, September 7, 2013

Investing in Conflict

Most domestic staff citizens have been taught, at some point in their personal or professional lives, to avoid conflict. 

At best, people take a class or two, perhaps read a book, which focuses on resolving conflict, where in actuality - it's the issue at hand underneath the conflict which needs resolution - not the portal through which it traveled toward the light. However, commonly overlooked, this leaves conflict with the poor and undeserved reputation it suffers. Customer service workers in any industry, in particular, spend entire careers perfecting the art of polite, agreeable dispositions, as that is most often what their clients are paying for. Having this presentation during the interview may even have landed most service workers their jobs.

Yet, is rubbing out conflict appropriate at all times and for all relationships... including those within domestic service teams and their larger, family office organizations? Can conflict be not only used, yet purposefully and thoughtfully installed as as a sophisticated organizational development tool?  Can the construct of conflict be moved away from the simple lower-denominator emotional outburst we've often and erroneously been taught it is - and used to our advantage and greater good of the domestic service delivery? To not avoid, yet rather to invest?

There's a reason why it's indelible.

Margaret Heffenan explains, in her brilliant illustration of workable, purposeful conflict and why the fear of conflict - not conflict itself - destroys the process needed to creatively solve the larger problems - and ultimately destroys the teams unwilling to use it. Not the type of minor problems we sometimes face, such as how to set the table for two unexpected late dinner arrivals, yet the important types of problems which determine outcomes that truly affect our team progress, our performance measurement processes, and ultimately - our relationships with fellow domestic staff team members. Those issues can, yet should not, be kept hidden under the downstairs tablecloth while the upstairs service delivery crumbles. Conflict can be purposefully instilled, ahead of time, as the preemptive strike against both management and service dysfunction.

It's often both stated and inferred that information is power. Especially within the hierarchy of small household teams which are experiencing severe dysfunction, it's widely assumed that once access to the right information is obtained or provided, the process of correctly using that information falls into place. Not true. As Heffenan notes so succinctly, having access to open information isn't the end - it's the beginning.

Conflict - when a means to purposefully challenge open and established information - can be branded into your own domestic staff citizenry...  in the hope of creating an even better team, a better service, and better relationships. 

What information do you have access to - which could be crafted into a better solution - if a culture existed on your estate which encouraged team members to create the healthy conflict needed to change?