Smart fights in the workplace

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Smart fights in the workplace

What is a smart fight I hear you ask? Well, in short, it’s a healthy argument. For businesses to grow and build successful products and services, there must be smart fights within your company. After all, if everyone agrees with the first idea you may be missing out on an even better idea that would have developed from a smart fight.

Amy Gallo, a contributing editor at Harvard Business Review, spoke about these issues at Inbound 2020. She addressed how you want conflicts within your organisation and the benefits these bring:

  • Better work outcomes.
  • Opportunities to learn and grow.
  • Improved relationships. 
  • Job satisfaction.  
  • Creative friction. 
  • Inclusive workplace.

So, if you're looking at how to incorporate smart fights into your workplace, read on.

Building a diverse team

Many companies put time and effort into building a diverse workplace full of people with different backgrounds and appearances. Naturally, these people will see things differently and will not always agree with each other. However, companies also tell their employees that we are all friendly and don’t have arguments with each other. Therefore, you lose the bonus of having a diverse team who offer a range of different perspectives.

The way to tackle this is to provide guidance on how to have a smart fight within your company and not to foster a culture where ‘everyone gets along and goes with the norm’. You want your employees to know that their opinion is valid and valued, otherwise why did you hire them?

Type of people

People generally fall between the spectrum of being an avoider and a seeker. 

Avoiders naturally walk away from conflict and their flight instinct is triggered when being pressured.

Seekers will naturally lean into conversations and will fight for what they think is right. 

You will not always be one or the other, it depends on the situation and who you are arguing with. But it can be helpful to sit back and think about what your default reaction is. You can then learn how to aid yourself and others when dealing with conflict in the workplace.

When dealing with a new conflict you should:

1. Understand the other person’s view and what they are trying to achieve - it helps you break away from being narcissistic and feel like you are ‘losing’.
2. Identify the type of conflict:
    1. Task - what are we doing? 
    2. Process - how are we going to get there?
    3. Status - who is in charge? 
    4. Relationship - what is your personal relationship with this person.

3. What’s my goal? Usually when having an argument you are trying to prove you are right and they are wrong, but ask yourself why?

4. Pick your option: 

    1. You sit down and go through the issues with the other person or team. 
    2. You let it go. 

Overall, you want to consider these things before cementing your decision on the issue. Accept that you and your team are not going to always agree and develop a way of how you would like to handle these situations.

Ways to cope

Below are some helpful tips on how to deal with conflict in the workplace, whether you’re an avoider or a seeker. 


  • Ask to take a break / get some water / take yourself away to compose yourself, then go back to the conversation.
  • Be willing to change your mind. 
  • Try to not take things to heart. Avoiders tend to take things personally when in fact it is about work and not a personal attack.
  • Act comfortable even if you’re not.


  • Be willing to change your mind. 
  • Check your ego. 
  • Don’t use honesty to be a jerk. Saying ‘I'm just being honest’ to dismiss other opinions should be avoided. 
  • Act comfortable even if you’re not.

What we thought at FINALLY

I caught up with some of my colleagues at FINALLY to see what they thought about the talk, and how we feel about conflicts at work.


Further resources

For more in depth information about smart fights, watch Amy Gallo’s Smart Fights: How to Create and Navigate Productive Tensions on Your Team on Inbound 2020.

For more tips from Inbound 2020, take a look at our latest blogs.




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