Why do we find conflict so entertaining?
How is it that Jerry Springer could create a TV show that is premised on people arguing with each other?
Why is it that I’m so enamored with the Lee Siegel (New Republic) / Ezra Klein (American Prospect) battle? (Siegel: "There’s this awful suck-up named Ezra Klein–his "writing" is sweaty with panting obsequious ambition…")
Or how about Tom Peters and Peter Drucker beef? (Peters: "I participated in a Drucker tribute a few weeks after his death…I was supposed to open with 5 minutes of laudatory remarks…I’ve seldom worked so hard on a thing—but in the end I couldn’t pull it off")
Even in books, conflict makes the day, such as when Michael Wolff says to Jon Rubin in Burnrate:
No. Fuck you. No accommodation. No nothing. I’ll bury this company. I’ll bury you. I’ll bury anything else you’re trying to do in a firestorm of publicity and litigation. I want you out of my company. You’re a lightweight and a snot nose. Get out of my company. The longer you stay, the more money and pain it will cost you.
In his latest fable Death by Meeting, Patrick Lencioni declares conflict and drama as integral to effective meetings. I tend to agree — fruitful discussion emerges from varying points of view. Conflict can be both entertaining and productive. Here’s to the devil’s advocate.
The problem is some people shy away from conflict. Some workplaces stifle it. In my view, if there’s no conflict, what’s being discussed is probably not very important.