Teamwork needs conflict


I’m enjoying this HBR article on teamwork and the need to change our mindsets that conflict is a bad thing in a team. I’ve thought this for a long time. Why do we try to avoid conflict? Once we label differing opinions or perspectives as in conflict, we try to avoid the issue, keep those with divergent views separate ‘to keep the peace’, or reconcile and find a middle ground somehow. Why? What if we sought conflict out instead of harmoniously homogenous teams. Diversity in the workplace is such a hot topic at the moment. Just what is meant by diversity is soo interesting too. Sometines it just means gender (but let’s save that for another post). We need to not just pull together different backgrounds and skillsets but change our attitudes towards conflict (let’s find a new word too because this one is loaded with negative connotations). We also need to provide the structures where team diversity can play out, get heard and differing views can be debated with a curious mindset, not defensive behaviour.

From the HBR article:

“There’s no point in collaboration without tension, disagreement, or conflict. What we need is collaboration where tension, disagreement, and conflict improve the value of the ideas, expose the risks inherent in the plan, and lead to enhanced trust among the participants.”

How to do it

The authors suggest calling out and discussing the differences in a team (roles, personality); have the team agree on ground rules for moments of conflict; use structures such as De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats or rotating the meeting chair role amongst the team. The author closes with suggesting to your team that conflict is not only allowed, but is an obligation.


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