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Managing Conflict

Which one: Task conflict or relationship conflict?

· team,issues

Task & relational processes: manage conflict
Conflict is a process of opposition and confrontation

Task (Cognitive) conflict

  • Divergence on the process
  • Task interdependence

>Signs an signals

  • Focused on work and tasks


  • Can be benign
  • Can break groupthink
  • Can foster creativity

Relationship (Affective) conflict

  • Divergent values & goals
  • Escalating task conflict

>Signs and signals:

  • Focused on personalities and relationship dynamics


  • Highly destructive
  • Threatens viability
  • Diverts energy

Source: Jehn (1994,1995), Jehn and Bendersky (2003), Pelled et al. (1999), DeChurch and Marks (2001)

High levels of task conflict can make implementation difficult and harden consensus.
Even if task conflict can drive to team performance, it usually evolves in relationship conflict.

Temporal aspects of conflict

  • In high performing team, task conflict has a peak in the mid team stage allowing to capitalize on this constructive debate.
  • In low performing team, relationship conflict increases throughout.

Source: Johan and Mannix (2011)


Mitgate relationship conflict

  • Establish and reinforce norms that make vigorous debates the norm rather than the exception
  • Address early!
  • Try to transform relationship conflict into task conflict
  • Avoid inflammatory language and ask people to re-state their views
  • Manage task conflict iteratively