Constructive or Destructive?
What creates conflict in your
organization? Different views on business decisions and
strategy? Disagreement about tactics? Poor relationships and
personality clashes? Conflict occurs for many reasons. But, by
changing how you respond to conflict, you can reduce its harmful
effects and maximize its useful ones.
"If it is well managed, conflict can have
positive outcomes," says CCL's Brenda McManigle. "Conflict can
lead to better decision making, expose key issues, stimulate
critical thinking and fuel creativity and innovation."
CCL and Eckerd College Leadership
Development Institute (a CCL Licensed Associate with a strong
focus on conflict management) teach managers to distinguish
between constructive and destructive conflict. "By learning to
increase constructive responses to conflict and reduce
destructive ones, managers can defuse tensions and find
productive solutions to difficult problems," says McManigle.
Behaviors that help to build relationships, manage emotions and
accept and resolve conflict are considered constructive
responses. They emphasize task-completion and problem solving,
creativity and exchange of ideas and the expression of positive
emotions. When constructive behaviors are the norm in a group or
organization, typical outcomes include:
- Win-win solutions.
- Open and honest
communication of feelings.
- The needs of both
parties being met.
- Less insistence on
sticking adamantly to one position.
- Active resolution
of conflict (not allowing conflict to continue).
- Thoughtful, not
- Improved team
responses prolong and inflame conflict and get in the way of
productivity. Trying to win no matter what, lack of respect for
others, avoiding conflict and negatively expressing emotions are
destructive. These behaviors will lead to:
- Feelings of anger
- Judgmental actions.
- Getting even and
- Parties not having
- Closed channels of
- Refusal to deal
- Incomplete tasks.
- Decreased team
If your work
environment shows the signs of destructive responses, you'll
want to identify the behaviors that are undermining resolution
and rein them in. Set new norms and expectations for handling
disagreements and begin to develop the skills that lead to more
Two Types of
In the throes of conflict, it's easy for people to get out of
control. One way to bring focus to the issue is to determine
whether the conflict is task-oriented or personal.
- Is cognitive and
focuses on ideas, not personalities.
- Effect is neutral
- Unrelated, or
positively related, to group functioning.
- Is emotional and
focuses on people, not ideas.
- Effect is negative.
- Negatively related
to group functioning.
- Can escalate
This issue of
draws on the following three CCL
Ideas into Action