Workplace conflict is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be negative.

Individuals must learn to use conflict to facilitate becoming a team which can take effective action. Butting heads in the early stages often helps teams coalesce, so they learn to work together effectively. There are different types of conflict; some types are useful at one stage of organizational learning, but destructive at another. Research shows that successful teams learn by going through a four-stage process: collaborative climate, collective understanding, collective competency, and continual improvement. The team becomes a cohesive unit during the initial stage, collaborative climate. But this cohesion occurs only when the team members develop ways of handling relationship conflict, and learn to accept the differing work styles of other members. Individuals progressively improve their ability to accept and work with conflict involving interpersonal relationships on the team. They learn how to confront each other, discuss issues vigorously, and hear arguments without feeling personally attacked.

Successful teams also adopt a standard of not talking behind people’s backs and not sharing team discussions with outsiders. When team members embrace these methods, polite behavior eventually yields to more open, honest discussions about their beliefs, values, and feelings. Trust steadily builds as members accept these beliefs, values and feelings as valid. Then teams can start producing useful results.

Graziadio Business Report Vol. 7 No. 1