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Three Common Workplace Conflicts

Conflict is a word that often makes people uncomfortable. Indeed, many would agree with the assertion: “Conflict is bad”.

Our view is different. We say that conflict is not inherently good or bad; it just “is”. Conflict is a normal part of any human relationship. Without a doubt, the impact of conflict can often be bad because many of the ways we (don’t) manage it are unproductive and damaging. Whether it is bad or good, then, is really more a function of whether we address it, and how we do so.

It is our observation that workplace conflicts can generally be divided into three categories: task, process, and emotional conflicts. In this article we have a modest goal: share with you how we distinguish among them. By so doing we believe you’ll already get ideas about how to address and manage these different types of conflict. But we won’t stop there. In future articles we will offer concrete suggestions on how to manage them – in particular the emotional conflicts.

Without further ado, let’s define our three “winning categories”:

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