The good fight and why you should encourage conflict in your workplace.

This is likely the exact opposite of what you’d expect to hear from a recognition and engagement company. While we indeed prom...

November 13, 2020
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How would you describe your job to a five year old?
What season would you be?
What is a weird food you have tried? Would you eat it again?
What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Would you go in the mother-ship with aliens if they landed on Earth tomorrow?
What is your favorite season?
Do prefer working from home or the office?
What is your earliest memory of this job?
What is the best thing you have bought so far this year?
What is the earliest book you remember?
If you had to move to another country, which one would you choose?
You are the best criminal mastermind in the world. What crime would you commit if you knew you would get away with it?
What is your favorite movie genre to watch?
What was the last thing you ate?
What person from history would you add to Mount Rushmore?
What is a weird fact you know?
What is your favorite part of working from home?
Were the Spice Girls a good team?
Imagine you can instantly learn any language. Which would you choose?
If you could live in any state, which state would you pick?
Which fictional team is the best team of all time?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
What do you usually eat for a quick lunch?
What simple food will you never eat?
Show us the weirdest thing you have in the room with you right now.
Would you rather stay at a hotel or an AirBNB?
What is your favorite movie genre to watch?
Are you more productive in the morning or at night?
Who is someone in your community that makes a difference?
Who was your most unique pet?
Choose one famous person from history you want on your team during a zombie apocalypse.
What is a good way to give back to the community?
Which song could you listen to over and over again?
Is Hugh Grant funny?
What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
Would you want to have an imaginary friend today? Did you have one as a child?
What actor or actress would you want to play you in the movie about your life?
What is the best super power?
What is your New Years resolution?
You can only eat one food again for the rest of your life. What is it?
What is the best work holiday?
What is the first gift you remember receiving?
Would you rather join Metallica or Backstreet Boys?
What is the best example of a community you have seen?
What is an easy way to do something nice for someone?
Show us your phone background and tell the story behind why you picked this image.
What was your first job?
Pick any band to play at your funeral.
If you could have an unlimited supply of one thing for the rest of your life, what would you pick?
Which superpower would you give to your arch enemy?
What is the most obscure superpower you would want?
What emoji best describes how you are feeling right now?
If you could live in any country, which country would you pick?
Would you rather live in a city or a town?
What is your favorite holiday?
What is something you accomplished as part of a team?
What is your standard office lunch?
What is your most used phone app?
What is your favorite season?
Have you ever won something as a team?
Imagine you are a professional baseball player. What is your introduction song?
Beach holiday or ski trip?
Have you ever been to a funny comedy show?
Would you rather live at the North Pole or the South Pole?
What is your favorite song to sing?
If you could live in any state, which state would you pick?
Imagine you could teleport anywhere. Where would you go right now?
What is the most unusual job you have heard of?
What was the last thing you ate?
You can visit any fictional time or place. Which would you pick?
What do your family and friends think you do all day?
What movie do you wish you could watch again for the first time?
Show us your most-used emoji.
What was the most unique style or fashion trend you ever embraced?
What movie defined your generation?
You are stranded on a remote desert island. Are you alone or with your worst enemy?
What is your favorite knock-knock joke?
Have you ever told someone Santa is not real?
Do you know how to speak more than one language?
On a scale of 1 – 10, how much of a team player are you?
What is your #1 recommendation in this city?
What is your favorite holiday?
What bucket list item do you most want to check off in the next six months?
What is your favorite mythical creature?
What was the first way you made money?
If you could be great at any Olympic sport, which would it be?
Which song could you listen to over and over again?
When did you start liking/hating mushrooms?
Where is your favorite vacation spot?
Do you take your PTO all at one time, or another way?
Which show do you remember most from your childhood?
Which beverage goes best with pizza?
Would you want to have a personal assistant follow you around everywhere and do what you asked of them?
Have you ever met your idol?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Would you rather live 100 years in the past or 100 years in the future?
What is your hobby?
When you are alone in the car, what volume is the music at?
Imagine you no longer have to work. How would you spend a Tuesday?
What is your favorite type of sandwich?

This is likely the exact opposite of what you’d expect to hear from a recognition and engagement company. While we indeed promote rewarding and showing appreciation when your employees or colleagues have achievements of any size, it's equally important to be sure you allow and even promote healthy conflict – where the word "healthy" is a critical adjective.

It's very apparent that leaders are increasingly conflict-avoidant. Have you noticed this behavior from leaders and managers? How their behavior extends into how colleagues handle conflict with one another? We're not proposing you allow unfettered or inappropriate conflict to brew and fester. We're suggesting that the stigma behind conflict needn't be so severe. When managed correctly, your organization can really benefit from all the downstream effects of healthy doses of conflict.

We live in an era in which employees tout wellness, happiness, recognition, perks, and more as their guideposts when choosing one employer over another. Candidate choice has made that investment even larger. This means we've all begun to see conflict as antithetical to engagement and collaboration.

Studies show that couldn't be farther from the truth. Organizations that avoid conflict, either purposely or tacitly, create an environment where many critical forms of communication start to break down:

  1. Prioritization becomes difficult as organizations fail to make challenging trade-offs – which leads to overwhelming workloads.
  2. Tolerance of poor performance is increased, making others pull the weight, leading to an overall reduction in productivity.
  3. Expressing dissent or frustration feels unsafe and leads to a closed, less inclusive, and less diverse environment – you can see how this might increase stress and resentment.

So, why aren't leaders and organizations handling this better? Like problems, people tend to focus on the symptom rather than focusing on the upstream root cause. An example is when Partnerships and Product aren't working as closely together as leaders expect or desire. The root problem is simple; it's mismanaged conflict or lack thereof. You can't improve collaboration until properly addressing your issues with conflict.

This tends to come as a surprise to leaders, managers, and even colleagues because they have expectations that investments into collaboration will instead reduce conflict when, in fact, these investments (e.g. restructuring, new tools) actually produce more conflict – not less.

Leaders, managers, and colleagues miscalculate impending conflicts while simultaneously undervaluing the importance of conflict to the organization. Much of the value desired from cross-functional collaboration is generated by differences in points of view, information access, talent, and more. Collisions and friction between people decrease when novel and creative solutions are developed, and thoughtful trade-offs among differing points of view are made. How do you build an environment where you embrace and encourage conflict rather than having a goal to reduce conflicts and, just as necessary, develop tools for managing that conflict?

Humans lack the inherent ability to deal with conflict. After all, we're biologically wired to seek safety through our survival instincts – this makes conflict even more challenging but still not an excuse to avoid it (feedback isn't going to kill you). Worse yet, societally, we're indoctrinated to be sensitive and kind (you've heard the phrase "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all!"). Finally, to stack on as if those two weren't enough, we're rewarded for following the flow and punished when we "rock the boat" at work. In short, conflict aversion runs extremely deep.

Despite the hurdles and obstacles of introducing conflict to your organization, there are straightforward solutions that leaders, managers, and colleagues can put in place to manage it effectively.

There are two paths that we see:

  1. Managing the emergence of conflict
  2. Managing conflict escalation

These paths will help your organization embrace conflict, enabling your leaders, managers, and colleagues to reap the full value and benefit of truly effective cross-functional intra-organization collaboration. Conflict then moves from being a scary liability to a notable asset.

How to manage the emergence of conflict

Managing conflict is more manageable when the members involved are equipped to resolve it themselves. Here are a few tools to help members in conflict make wiser decisions which can lead to the institutionalization of these tools:

For the sake of your time, let’s focus on creating a structured resolution plan and communicating it repetitively.– create a structured resolution plan and communicate it repetitively.

We've all been here at least once in our career. To better explain, let's pretend we all work for a pretend organization called Acme Corporation. You're a partnerships person with a prospective customer asking whether Acme's service supports a specific integration (you know you don't, but this deal will push you over your quarterly quota). You know you'll need to speak with design, product, marketing, engineering, and leadership to get complete buy-in. Expectedly, each team is having a bit of a reaction to this. How do we redistribute resources off other critical projects? Who has the last say when there are misalignments on development vs revenue? Considering these challenging questions, Acme is discovering that one large prospect produces a lot of internal conflicts.

How familiar is this story, too familiar? Most organizations will face comparable problems to this one. The outcome is that deals become increasingly harder to close due to damaged relationships between the parties involved. You need a structured resolution plan to avoid people getting weighed down by not only the path to discovering the solution but also finding the "right solution." Often when the members involved muster the courage to confront their disagreements, it's an "I know best" approach ending in small concessions with the consequence of a less than ideal "split the difference" resolution – if not a complete standstill.

We recommend that you establish a company-wide process for resolving disagreements to alter this familiar experience's outcome. A well-defined, designed, and communicated resolution plan will dramatically reduce wasted time and resentment. In return, your organization will yield more innovative outcomes and more productivity. To be sure it remains effective, be sure your plan is clear, concise, and offers step-by-step instructions to follow. To be sure it's sustainable, it needs to be made an integral part of everyone's day-to-day workflow, specifically when engaging with one another and a conflict emerges.

Managing conflict escalation

If you've implemented the above, only some complicated conflicts will need to be resolved by leadership. However, it's critical to get this right. Reports will be watching how managers resolve the conflict and to further benefit from the escalation, managers must resolve the conflict through ways that model desired behaviors in reports:

  • Only accept escalation from all participating members
  • Managers must resolve escalated conflicts with counterparts
  • Make escalated conflict resolution fully transparent

To save time, let's focus on – make escalated conflict resolution fully transparent.

Too often, we hear stories that when a conflict or problem is resolved at the manager level, the process and justification backing the resolution are left inside a black box to which the reports don't have access. Knowing that it's not extremely helpful to share every single arduous detail to summate the resolution, not taking the time to explain how the decision was met is missing a significant opportunity.

A candid explanation that walks them through the process will offer direction to people when trying to resolve their future conflicts. It also removes the rumor-mill of which manager won or lost and which has the most influence or power. Not knowing this leads to speculation and brews mistrust, spark territorial battles, and eventually deters cross-functional collaboration little by little.

An exercise to improve and normalize conflict

We like to leave people with a tangible and easy tool to help kick off processes we discuss – especially when they're as sensitive as conflict can be. One way to make conflict feel normal is to outline each role or person's discrete value and the stresses that you believe exist for each. Here's how to do the exercise:

  1. Draw a circle
  2. Divide that circle into equal pieces account for each person/role

Ask these questions for each:

  • What's this person/role's unique value?
  • What should this person/role be paying attention to?
  • What would you miss if this person/role was no longer here?
  • Which stakeholders does this person/role focus on?
  • Who does this person/role report to, and who defines its success?
  • What type of conflict does this person/role most often put on the team?
  • What's the one thing this person/role says that frustrates others?

When finished with the exercise, you will find that most of the time, when the team is fully transparent, and all information is openly accessible, your team will align around an agreed-upon resolution. Where they can't, this is an excellent time to leverage your escalation plan and use it as an opportunity to coach.

We recommend using this exercise on limited size teams (not entire organizations) in scenarios when there are conflicts such as:

  • Someone championing a decision with limited data or information.
  • A team member that's become quiet due to past conflicts not getting resolved, creating an imbalance within the team.
  • A power imbalance where one or a few members overpower the rest; goals being misaligned between each team member.

The outcome of this exercise is typically a novel discussion amongst team members. The increased awareness and shared language will help your team discover that much of their conflicts once perceived as interpersonal friction was actually healthy role-based conflicts. This will help them quickly realize that conflict is not a liability or something to avoid, but it's, in fact, a benefit and strength to wield.

As a leader, manager, or even an employee who wants to see their organization reach new levels, you should begin changing the internal perception of conflict. Don't start with training programs in conflict resolution; instead, start trying to normalize conflict in your workplace by reframing it. This will lower the inter-personal conflict to levels that enable healthy conflict to gain traction.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

Could find the answer you are looking for?

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