Nature of Conflict and its Causes
Understanding conflict dynamics and cultural approaches to conflict management help teams to distill key points vital to a successful and productive resolution of team conflict.
There are four basic types of conflict: emotional, cognitive, constructive and destructive. Emotional and destructive conflicts lead to an inability to resolve issues. Cognitive and constructive conflicts are a necessary part of finding successful solutions as a team.
Emotional conflict is "personal, defensive, and resentful" (Thompson, Aranda, and Robbins, 2000) and of is based on anger, personality clashes, ego and tension. Emotional conflict occurs when individual interests trump the interests of the team as a whole. This type of conflict interferes with the effort of a team to resolve a problem.
Cognitive conflict occurs when team members voice different ideas and is "largely depersonalized" (Thompson, Aranda, and Robbins, 2000). As opposed to emotional conflict, his type of conflict is based on arguments about the merits of ideas, plans and projects.
Because cognitive conflict is not based on personal feelings, it forces team members to rethink problems and arrive at a collective decision.
Constructive conflict, as the name suggests, helps teams resolve problems and uncover new solutions to old issues in a productive manner (Thompson, Aranda, and Robbins, 2000). It allows change and growth to occur within a team environment.
Destructive conflict, like emotional conflict, causes dysfunction when a "lack of common agreement leads to negativism" (Thompson, Aranda, and Robbins, 2000). This disrupts the progress of all group members. Destructive conflict in teams diminishes the possibility of any problem resolution.
Understanding and defining conflict terminology and conflict management is a first and important step in successful conflict management. Since conflict is inevitable in any team or group situation, groups must cooperate to reach a successful resolution of any issues.