Alongside the processes used to address conflict when it arises (see: “What is a healthy way to approach conflict resolution?”) we can put in place certain structures to create and maintain a supportive working culture. Some typical building blocks include:
Establishing a set of values
If employees are able to understand and translating these values into behaviours, it helps create a community of colleagues who share similar beliefs of acceptable and unacceptable behaviours.
Ensuring every voice is heard by scheduling group meetings, allowing time for appreciation, and making decision-making more structured and inclusive. It is important that anyone leading a meeting sees a vital component of their role “seek and surface” conflict - not in the negative, just to bring to the surface the hesitations and disagreements that are sitting unsaid in the room.
Curating the space
Providing a safe working environment encourages individual and collective wholeness. This is true at the organisational and individual level. How we design our meeting spaces can either encourage antagonism or collective responsibility - think of the difference in atmosphere that exists in a boardroom with a large rectangular table vs a group of people sitting in a circle round a campfire. Whilst the campfire itself might be impractical in a corporate building(!) - circles without tables in the middle are not.
Transparent and honest communication
Nothing sends a group of employees into an anxious and defensive stance quite like a series of closed-door, seemingly secret meetings. Even tough conversations and hard truths are better aired than kept behind closed doors, leaving those out in the cold with a feeling of uncertainty and fear.
Conflict can often be created or exacerbated by individual’s different ways of operating. Understanding and valuing the different way people think and act through open and authentic communication can prevent and ease unnecessary conflict.