Team Effectiveness

Try Productive Conflict for Better Teamwork

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Is Conflict Always Negative?

Conflict is a word with negative connotations. You might relate it to fighting, upsetting others, or even unresolved issues. 

Generally, conflict is defined as “a difference of opinions involving strong emotions.”

Conflict is a natural part of work and personal relationships, but productive conflict is possible and beneficial: finding solutions, compromising, and taking ownership for mistakes are all examples of the outcomes of positive conflict.

When you are in a conflict, do you focus on:

  • Logic and victory?
  • Expression and feelings?
  • Justice and logic?
  • Feelings and consensus?



This kind of conflict occurs when participants are open to responding differently. Knee-jerk reactions that lead to negative outcomes can be replaced with other, more productive behaviors.

Positive behaviors to encourage productive conflict include:

  • Acknowledging others’ feelings
  • Apologizing
  • Communicating respectfully
  • Determining the core problem
  • Listening
  • Showing flexibility
  • Reflecting


Why does negative conflict happen?

The first step to encouraging and engaging in positive conflict is understanding your conflict behaviors and what causes conflict to snowball into a negative and unproductive problem. Each Everything DiSC® style has positive and negative tendencies in conflict.

Negative conflicts occur when, instead of engaging in positive and productive behaviors, participants react with destructive responses. These negative behaviors that cause problematic conflict include:

  • Arguing
  • Being defensive
  • Blaming others
  • Being passive-aggressive
  • Caving in to others
  • Gossiping about someone
  • Seeking revenge 

Whether conflict is short term or long term, it is inescapable. People will always have different opinions and strong feelings about important matters. But that doesn’t mean that productive conflict is impossible.

Engaging in productive conflict, instead of a negative conflict, is part of the work that makes teams more effective. By understanding each team member’s motivations and goals in a potential conflict, we can better prevent our negative automatic reactions from driving the conflict and resolution and have more successful team building and teamwork.

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Rachel Semple

Rachel Semple works across the FlashPoint client journey, from crafting initial proposals to developing and reviewing program deliverables.