constructive conflict 2 

Count on clashes; people see the world differently, people are different. Given that conflict is foreseeable, how to disagree constructively, in ways that lead us to solutions and greater collaboration? And avoid hurt feelings, lingering grudges, suppressed resentment, escalation, emotional retaliation i.e. dysfunctional disagreement. 

High directness/low intensity. 
Communication is clear, unambiguous, forthright, and comes with actions like debating and deliberating. Goal remains progress, cooperation, and creative collaboration. Respect is conveyed as well as a willingness to listen. Culture is supportive of diversity in pursuit of common mission, Win/Win, and seeking the third alternative are norms.  

High directness/high intensity.
Opposition is also expressed unambiguously but is accompanied by dysfunctional, disrespectful behavior: excessively raised voice, aggressive language, and eye rolling. “Win” at all costs is the mantra.  

Low directness/low intensity.
Low key but still highly toxic. Subtle and not so subtle passive-aggressive sabotage occurs, folk don’t volunteer information or only give partial information, they act out just below the level that would generate official rebuke, and aggressively tease. 

Low directness/high intensity.
Opposition is often indirect and expressed ambiguously and disrespectfully. Others points of view are ignored or discounted, perhaps even deliberately undermined in a mean spirited manner i.e. back-stabbing. Dysfunctional, low trust culture results.

Clearly, high directness/low intensity i.e. friendly clarity, is the preferred method of dispute resolution. Say what you mean, say it clearly, say it with a good heart, a constructive spirit, and an open mind.


This blog inspired by and draws heavily on a 5/10/15 NYT article “Defuse Discord At the Office: Be more Direct” by Phyllis Korkki which in turn referenced a recent paper in the Academy of Management Review, lead author Laurie R. Weingart, senior associate dean at Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.

Closing Quotes:

“Conflict is inevitable but combat is optional.” – Max Lucado, b. 1955

“Peace is not the absence of conflict but the ability to cope with it peacefully.”

“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” – Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929 – 1968

As always, I share what I most want/need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier