The Two Types of Conflict in the Workplace

Team members can disagree in the workplace. Conflict resolution training will help you understand when that’s good, when it’s bad, and how to manage it. 

Conflict resolution training can help prevent disruptions.

Conflict resolution training can help prevent disruptions.

A good team is made up of a diverse group of individuals with different skill sets and backgrounds. These individuals often disagree or have a difference of opinion. While the word “conflict” brings negative connotations, often times workplace conflict can be beneficial. Conflict resolution training will help an organization understand when a conflict is good, when it’s bad, and how to manage them both. 

Bad Conflict is Disruptive

A bad conflict occurs when colleagues aren’t able to get past their differences. They may be holding onto grudges from a previous incident, or bringing their own personal baggage into the workplace. These personal issues have nothing to do with improving the workplace, so they have no place there.

Clashes like these bring productivity to a halt, stifling creativity and innovation. This type of conflict is not tolerated in a professional setting, and it needs to be stopped before it’s allowed to create a toxic workplace for anyone.

Good Conflict is Constructive

Not all conflict is destructive and personal. Many times when colleagues are passionate about their jobs and have a difference of opinion over the best course of action, they will have disagreements with one another.

Respectful debate that leads to mutually agreed-upon solutions is a positive type of workplace conflict. Colleagues can work through this disagreement to find a common goal, and in doing so better understand one another’s point of view. As this type of conflict can have many positive outcomes, it should be encouraged as long as the conversations are respectful and productive.

Be Proactive

A manager needs to know the difference between the two types of conflict, and preemptively halt disruptions. While conventional wisdom would suggest it’s best to act when the first signs of a negative conflict appear, Ginka Toegel and Jean-Louis Barsoux of the Harvard Business Review believe that even at that point it’s too late. By the time these differences of opinion boil over into a conflict, frustrations may have already set in and negative impressions have become firmly rooted. A manager needs to be more proactive.

Five Topics of Discussion

Toegel and Barsoux recommend holding a series of conversations with your team to establish harmony and prevent the outbreak of any negative conflicts. This series of group conversations and the non-judgmental feedback it promotes will help to align your team members for successful collaboration.

These discussions last approximately 20 to 30 minutes each, covering five different topics:

  • Look: Understanding the differences in how people look and present themselves.
  • Act: Seeing how people can misjudge behaviors.
  • Speak: Discussing the differences in language and communication styles.
  • Think: Understanding how team members think about what they’re doing.
  • Feel: Learning how members convey passion and emotion.

These conversations can be held in any order. As the manager, it’s best to put yourself out there and answer first, since your team may be shy in the early stages.

Holding these discussions before the team works together can help head off any potential problems, leading to a harmonious and productive team. Team members will still disagree at times, but as long as the conflicts are respectful and their goals are aligned, these differences will be productive.

Conflict resolution training can help your employees work through their differences and find constructive, educational outcomes for the common good. MasteryTCN provides workplace training courses published on a common courseware platform with video produced by the leading content providers in the industry. Contact the Mastery Training Content Network for more information on conflict resolution training.


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