Three simple techniques to deal with conflict in teams

Conflict within teams

Conflict is a natural dynamic in any healthy relationship. So it is not the presence of conflict that is the issue, but rather how that conflict is addressed (or not addressed!)  This is particularly true of teams, where there are often additional dynamics such as organizational politics at play.

Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dsyfunctions of a Team” has this to say:

“..Teams that engage in productive conflict know that the only purpose is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time. They discuss and resolve issues more quickly and completely than others and they emerge from heated debates with no residual feelings or collateral damage ..

Contrary to the notion that teams waste time and energy arguing, those that avoid conflict actually doom themselves to revisiting issues again and again. They often ask team members to take issues “off line” which seems to be a euphemism for avoiding dealing with an important topic…”

If only it were that easy!

Three Simple Techniques

Fortunately, there are some simple techniques you can use that will make a difference.

  • Reframe it;
  • Deal with it or drop it;
  • No triangulation
1.         Reframe the Conflict

Wherever there is a team there is the potential for conflict. It is inevitable. If there is no conflict, there is probably no interdependency between members of the team (which is essential for any high performing team).

So the first technique is to reframe.

REFRAME: Conflict is a normal part of any functioning team; it is a healthy sign that issues matter and people care.   It is not automatically a negative and shouldn’t necessarily be something to be feared.

2.         Deal with it or let it go

The second technique is so simple, and yet so powerful.




Deal with it

Let Go

Drop it


Avoid it

Go Underground

Carry it

The first two options are the healthy approaches to conflict management. The latter two are often cause of lingering resentment and reduced trust.

The two key components to the technique of “deal with it or let it go” are:

  • The 48 Hour Rule – you have 48 Hours to deal with it or to drop it. That means, really drop it – “no hands from the grave.”
  • The team keeps each other accountable.
3.         No triangulation

The third tip is my favourite. There is such a temptation in teams to not address the issue with the person directly, but rather, to triangulate and go to someone else within the team to have a whinge.

Inevitably, this gets back to the source and causes either greater conflict and/or reduces trust in the relationship.

The good news is that this one is this is easy to deal with .. Again, it is about the team holding each other to account.  If a team member comes to whinge about another team member, the first thing you ask is “have you had a conversation with them about this?” If the answer is “no”, then by all means provide coachng around how to frame that conversation but don’t become part of the drama of it all by engaging with the issue at hand.

So there you have it; three simple techniques to address conflict within teams. Have you tried any of the above? How did they work?

With thanks to Rob Whitechurch from “The Effective People Group” for the concepts and to for the image.

high performing teams, conflict, patrick lencioni,

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