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Influencers

When conflict at the office is a good thing

Creative disputes in 'The Social Network', starring Armie Hammer. (Columbia Pictures)

Don't let creative disputes get out of hand. Armie Hammer stars as both Winklevoss twins in 'The Social Network'. (Columbia Pictures)

They’re the age-old questions we all face at some point during our career — but are sometimes afraid to ask.

Should you be friends with your boss or keep the relationship strictly professional? Are there job interview questions you should simply never answer? And can conflict amongst colleagues ever be good for business? Several LinkedIn Influencers weighed in on these hefty topics this week. Here’s what they had to say.

Joel Peterson, Chairman JetBlue Airways

“In most workplaces, people squabble over creative differences, project ownership, and budgets – they butt heads over all manner of political issues,” wrote Peterson in his post Why Conflict is Good For Business. “As surprising as it might sound, conflict can be a good thing for your business.”

Of course, there’s a difference “between conflict in a dysfunctional company and in a high-trust organisation,” he wrote. That difference? How people deal with conflict.

“Healthy organisations are often the noisiest. To outsiders, they may appear conflict-ridden and unable to find a perfect harmony. But inside, leaders are harnessing the different viewpoints and ideas to power progress, to move the agenda forward,” Peterson wrote.  The key is managers who can manage conflict. “Handling conflict well can boost trust. The key is to convert discord into opportunities for learning and growth.”

Peterson offered three ways to think about managing conflict for the best results. Among them:

May the best idea win. Any other criterion for making decisions may well be a symptom of low trust. If the best idea loses, it can mean that disagreement is frowned upon, so certain ideas never get aired in the first place. It could also mean input from junior employees is ignored,” he wrote.

Don’t let tensions boil over. Strife has a way of building up and — if ignored — boiling over,” Peterson wrote. “Processing conflict along the way is like allowing the safety valve on a pressure cooker to do its job. “that said, it’s inevitable that some conversations will end in anger or hurt feelings. When people are invested in their ideas, they put themselves and their emotions on the line. That’s a good thing.

Olivier Fleurot, chief executive officer at MSLGROUP, a Publicis Group company

If you’re surrounded by younger colleagues and more junior employees, you may have noticed something: “Millennial workers see the boss as a friend. They do not want a hierarchical relationship with that boss, and less than a third of them feel the role their manager currently plays fits their image of an ideal manager,” wrote Fleurot in his post Should Your Boss Be Your Friend?

Those findings came from an MSLGROUP study, but “such findings … are quite an issue for companies that still have a relatively traditional organisation where hierarchical relationships are the dominant model,” he wrote. So what do companies need to do to ensure they attract and retain talented young people?

Fleurot offers several ideas. Among them:

“Managers need to learn to relate to multi-generational team members. This doesn’t mean yielding to whatever employees want; but it does mean understanding their views of the work world and finding common ground that benefits many successful companies today,” he wrote.

“Secondly, and contrary to what some may believe, a command and control management style isn’t necessary in teams if expectations are clear, feedback is frequent and rewards are consistent. Older managers effectively need to be helped to act more like a coach or mentor, than a boss who gives orders,” Fleurot advised.

And it’s not just Generation- X and Baby Boomer managers that need to adapt, he wrote. “To optimise Millennials’ contributions to organisations, younger managers – Gen Y employees’ contemporaries - may also have to assume more of a coach or mentor-like role to establish authority and balance the ‘friend’ dynamic.”

Bernard Marr, chief executive officer at Advanced Performance Institute

“It always astonishes me when I learn that people have been asked inappropriate or even illegal questions,” wrote Marr in his post Job Interview Questions You Should Not Answer (Or Ask).

“The purpose of the job interview is to establish whether you are right for the job and company, and whether the company is right for you,” he wrote. “Any questions you might get shouldn’t go beyond the professional assessment of your skills, enthusiasm and fit.”

So which questions should you keep mum on when asked?

Here are a few Marr cites:

Do you have any children? How old are you? Do you have any debts? Do you drink alcohol? What religious holidays do you observe? What do you do at the weekends?

“Always remember that you don’t have to answer any questions in a job interview that are not related to your job and you don’t have to answer question about race, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, family status, type of military discharge or your financial position. You can even terminate the interview and leave,” Marr wrote.

“If you are happy to reveal the answers, you can simply answer the questions, but remember, it is your right not to.”  “It is always wise to remember that in most circumstances there is no sinister reason behind those questions and the interviewer just wants to innocently assess whether you are right for the job,” he wrote.

“Therefore, the overall best way to deal with inappropriate or illegal interview questions is to look beyond the question and ask yourself: what is the motive for asking [it]?”