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Conflict Management: Lessons From The Real World

The Science of Productive Conflict

The Science of Productive Conflict

WorkLife with Adam Grant


1.01K reads

The Science of Productive Conflict

Conflicts at home and work often seem different, but they have similar roots-- and similar remedies. In any relationship, conflict is inevitable-- but it isn’t unsolvable.

Every relationship in every team in every workplace has conflicts. We disagree about big dec...

Extensive research shows that conflict has a big impact on cohesion and performance. The key issue, though, is not how often we have conflict-- it’s how well we manage it.

The goal isn’t to have less conflict; it’s to have the right kind of conflict. And ...

Task Vs Relationship Conflict

  • Conflict comes in multiple flavours. Walking down the ladder of inference can help with identifying what kind you’re having. Task conflict is disagreeing about the problem, the solution, or the decision—and that can be both necessary and productive.
  • Relatio...

Status conflict is about where we fit in the hierarchy that we're in together.

For example: "I think I'm higher in this informal status hierarchy than you. And you think you're higher in this informal status hierarchy than me or we're equal, but you're acting like you...

The Hidden Complexities

A conflict might sound on the surface, like basic communication trouble, but actually there are multiple kinds of conflict going on here.

When you're in the midst of conflict, it's often hard to take a step back and see what kind you're clarifying that can help you solve it.

Research shows that fault lines are common within teams -- and between teams. You can have entire groups that dislike and disrespect each other. Which is not good for performance or morale.

Some fault lines are around status conflict-- there are tensions between groups around who’s run...

Solution Aversion

Psychologists have demonstrated a pattern called solution aversion-- when people don’t like a particular solution, they often deny or dismiss the problem altogether. And if you can’t get people on the other side of a fault line to even recognize the problem, you’re not going to s...

Leaders often say, “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.” They want people to be constructive-- not to whine or complain.

But if people can only speak up when they have a solution, you’ll never hear about the biggest problems-- which are too complex for ...

Agree To Disagree, Respectfully

You don’t have to agree to disagree. You just have to agree to disagree respectfully.

The clearest sign of intellectual chemistry isn't agreeing with someone. It's enjoying your disagreements with them. Harmony isn’t the combination of identical sounds. It’s the pleasing a...

Creative tension can make beautiful music.

In a culture that deals with conflict effectively, people aren’t afraid to bring their problems to the table. If you can agree on the problem, you have a better shot at finding a solution that works for everyone. And even if you don’t find tha...

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