The Value of Conflict

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The Value of Conflict
The word conflict stirs up thoughts of anger, friction, mistrust, frustration, and hostility. Rarely does anyone think of conflict as a tool for deeper thinking, better results, and communication that is more dynamic. When unmanaged, team conflict can destroy cohesiveness, but teams that use conflict resolution strategies can turn their conflict into an asset. Managed conflict can promote an exchange of ideas to generate well-thought-out results, encourage team members to think outside of their own ideas, and develop deeper understanding.

Sal Capobianco, Mark Davis, and Linda Kraus attempt to dispel the myth that all conflict is bad in their article "Good conflict, bad conflict: How to have one without the other" (2004 a). In the article, they state that "some kinds of conflict result[ing] from organizational growth and change … can be simply the result of new ideas being generated and debated; this kind of conflict can be invigorating, and even vitally important for the organization" (Capobianco et al, 2004, 3). The authors confirm that conflict can be a robust exchange of ideas that can breathe life into an organization or team. However, the line between productive, healthy conflict and destructive, unhealthy conflict is a thin one. Only focused conflict management strategies can keep the team on a path to success. Capobianco, Davis, and Kraus remind teams "the ultimate goal is to shape and guide conflict so as to minimize its hurtful and destructive forms, and to encourage its more positive constructive forms." (Capobianco et al, 2004, 3)

Many articles and journals contain volumes of conflict resolution techniques. Essentially, most of them boil down to five basic approaches. These five approaches are described in an article by Glenn Starks, called "Managing Conflict in Public Organizations" (2007): collaborating, compromising, accommodating, competing, and avoiding. Each of the approaches carries pros and cons. However, the only...
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