In great teams conflict becomes productive. The free flow of conflicting ideas is critical for creative thinking, for discovering new solutions no one individual would have come up with on his own.

Peter Senge

By now it is clear that conflict on teams is inevitable, so trying to avoid conflict at all costs does not work. The conflict simply goes underground and infects relationships and decision making in sometimes less obvious but equally destructive ways. The tactic of arguing vehemently for one's position may result in temporary "victory," but it handicaps long-term relationships and the ability to resolve future conflicts. Other variations of destructive choices during conflict such as yielding, sarcasm, blocking, and hiding emotions also prove to be just as ineffective.

Making constructive choices, especially in the moment, is not always easy. As we have seen, even when some team members behave effectively, their conflict partners do not always respond in kind. Task conflict morphs into relationship conflict. The resulting heat and emotion that come with such conflict cause even the most level-headed of us to make dubious choices at times. So what's a team to do?

For times when the safety and trust of an effective team climate doesn't translate to quick resolutions or the best intentions for constructive communication seem to fall flat, we suggest a variety of techniques and processes. First, we offer a word of caution about selecting ...

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