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 / Third Quarter 1996 / Issue 4(originally published by Booz & Company)


Turning Conflict Into a Tool for Team Effectiveness

With greater perspective-taking skills, team members will understand that others have different views and will anticipate disagreements. They will more likely respond to conflict by attempting to understand the other person. Those who do not understand or take the others' perspectives will be less tolerant of conflict, and will tend to respond by attacking the person instead of the task. Although this seems obvious, research suggests that team members often discuss information they hold in common, but tend not to share information that only they know and that in trying to elicit much-needed information through perspective-taking, team members are more likely to produce task-oriented conflict than spats between people.

Organizations are intentionally creating situations where people can argue about their differences of opinion with the hope that greater team effectiveness will result. However, until teams learn to harness their potential in a synergistic manner, it will be difficult to manage the many assets and liabilities inherent in the way they work.

In short, team members need to become comfortable with conflict and even learn how to create it without fear that they will destroy the team.

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