If given the choice to work in an environment of harmony or conflict, few people would opt for the latter. I’ll bet most human resources managers would back me up on this. Just ask them about the root causes of unresolved workplace issues and you’re likely to hear the term "conflict avoidance" repeated frequently. That cult of consensus, or artificial harmony, is a pervasive influence in many organizations – and a major reason so many businesses struggle with creating more diverse workforces.
As CEO of G&S Business Communications, I am motivated to remove obstacles to growth. When diverse thinkers contemplate business decisions in an environment of trust, their different perspectives can produce conflict simply because the outcome isn’t always symmetrical or balanced. However, conflict does not have to be a barrier. Productive conflict can challenge assumptions, break patterned behavior, and unleash mind-blowing, creative thinking that changes the order of things.
Great changes are clearly afoot in our world. Divergent problem solving is what clients demand of us when forming business communications strategies to address today’s harsh global realities, such as feeding a hungry world or finding new technologies that help the planet and society thrive. These are complex issues for which there aren’t obvious, singular answers. Diving into these murky waters takes perpetual curiosity and intellectual rigor. Solutions will most often come from undeterred employees who are equally motivated by personal passions and professional growth.
These cultural and business dynamics are also why last year G&S implemented its own diversity and inclusion program. We were very proud to enter our agency-wide effort, Think Differently Together, for a Diversity Distinction in PR Award last year. Being chosen as the inaugural winner of the Best New Diversity Initiative is an honor for which we are deeply grateful.
We were able to recognize and remove roadblocks early on because we listened closely to the voices of employees. Their honest feedback expressed in surveys, town-hall gatherings, and one-on-one conversations guided us in the strategic design of our new program.
Recently, we marked a significant behavioral change among employees in which our agency’s culture played a part. A comparison of year-over-year survey results shows a 15% increase in employees who agree or strongly agree that "experiences since coming to G&S have led [them] to become more understanding of people with different backgrounds." When employees blossom personally and professionally, we all win.
As we celebrate progress, conflict can’t go unchecked. Organizations need skilled leaders who know how to reframe many viewpoints, whether opposing or aligned, into new ways of seeing a business problem. At G&S, I am fortunate to see that leadership in action every day among our most experienced communicators, rising PR stars, and talented clients. It’s the upside of conflict that arises from diverse, creative collaborations.
Luke Lambert is president and CEO of G&S Business Communications.