Finding good players is easy. Getting them to play as a team is another story.

Casey Stengel

We have seen that conflict is inevitable, complex, and emotionally challenging for teams. In order to deal effectively with conflict, teams need to be able to create a climate where team members feel safe to be open with one another. They need to be able to approach conflict with a positive attitude. They have to be able to trust one another and work together closely. Finally, they need to be aware of and sensitive to emotional issues that arise during conflict. Before examining these elements more closely, it will be helpful to examine a situation where a team operated in the wrong climate.

Our story comes from a support department at a Fortune 100 company. The division's long-term director preferred to lead by intimidation. Members of his top management team did what they were told, which contributed to an environment of dependency. The managers were kept in the dark about why decisions were being made. Trust was low, and no one ever knew what to expect next. The managers felt it was better to keep quiet and not share information lest it be used against them.

Employees in the department began to take an adversarial approach toward management, in part because they did not receive answers about why actions were being taken that created perceived inequities over scheduling and other policies. When conflicts initially arose, employees discussed them with ...

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