Is Conflict Always Bad?

Conflict is an inevitable fact of life and an inevitable fact of leadership. Researchers have found that first-line supervisors and midlevel managers can spend more than 25 percent of their time dealing with conflict, and resolving conflict has been found to be an important factor in leadership effectiveness. ln fact, successfully resolving conflicts is so important that it is a central theme in some of the literature about organizations. Moreover, successfully resolving conflicts will become an increasingly important skill as leadership and management practice moves away from authoritarian directives and toward cooperative approaches emphasizing rational persuasion, collaboration, compromise, and solutions of mutual gain.

There is a variety of sources of conflict in a team, committee, workgroup, and organizational settings. For example, conflict can occur when a group or team members

  • have strong differences in values, beliefs, or goals;
  • have high levels of task or lateral interdependence;
  • are competing for scarce resources or rewards;
  • are under high levels of stress; or
  • face uncertain or incompatible demands – that is role ambiguity and role conflict.

Conflict can also occur when leaders act in a manner inconsistent with the vision and goals they have articulated for the organization. Of these factors contributing to the level of conflict within or between groups, or teams probably the most important source of conflict is the lack of communication. Because many conflicts are the result of misunderstanding and communication breakdowns, leaders can minimize the level of conflict within and between groups by improving their communication and listening skills, as well as spending time networking with others.

The prevailing view of conflict among researchers during 1930s and 1940s and it probably also represents the way many people are raised today. (that is most people have a strong value of minimizing or avoiding conflict) However, researchers studying group effectiveness today have come to a different conclusion. Some level of conflict may help bolster innovation and performance. A conflict that enhances group productivity is viewed as useful and conflict that hinders group performance is viewed as counter-productive.

Various possible positive and negative effects of conflict are listed:

Possible Positive Effects of Conflict:

Increased effort.

Feelings get aired.

A better understanding of others.

the impetus for change.

Better decision making.

Key issues surface.

Critical thinking stimulated.

Possible Negative Effects of Conflict

Reduced productivity.

Decreased communication.

Negative feelings.


Poorer decision making.

Decreased cooperation.

Political backstabbing.

Finally, winning a negotiation at your counterpart’s expense is likely to be only a short-term gain. Leaders should attempt to work out a resolution by looking at long-term rather than short-term goals, and they should try to build a working relationship that endures and be mutually trusting and beneficial beyond the negotiation.

Fugen Albayrak, PCC