The Team Conflict Cycle

The Team Conflict Cycle

Does the level of conflict on your team wax and wane over time? Wouldn't it be great to resolve recurring conflicts instead of recycling them? Team conflict usually arises when a trigger event occurs in the environment. The event not only surfaces conflict over the issue at hand, but brings up past conflicts that have been buried, but not resolved. Team conflicts become buried when the team is tired of struggling with them, or when team members begin to believe that the issue is irresolvable.

When a trigger event occurs, tension begins to mount, and the conflict grows as people begin to discuss the event covertly. The conflict comes to a peak when someone in the team decides to tackle the issue head on. If direct confrontation is a strategy that is valued by the team, the issue will be fully discussed, and plans will be made as to how to deal with the problem.

On the other hand, if direct confrontation is frowned upon, or even punished, or if the confrontation is ignored, or quickly placated, the issue will live on, even after people have stopped discussing it. If portions of the conflict are addressed and resolved, only the unresolved aspects of the issue will move underground to await resurrection another day. Thusly, when the next trigger event arises, the new conflict, along with those resting underground, will surface. Unfortunately, underground conflict does not lie dormant, but tends to grow and fester, so when it is next surfaced, the issues loom larger and uglier than ever before.

To break the cycle of conflict in your team, take full advantage of the peak period of team conflict by asking the team to examine the issue at hand, negotiate a collaboration or a comprise, and implement a fix. Dealing with conflict as it comes actually energizes a team, and allows it to move ahead without being burdened with old baggage.


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