What is Constructive Conflict


Constructive conflict describes any conflict in which the conflicting parties willingly engage in such a way as to ensure a mutual benefit and that the benefit of actually engaging outweighs the costs of either the conflict or the engagement itself. The idea is to strengthen or redefine the relationship for the greater good of the involved parties (Meehan, 2014).

Socio-emotional conflict, on the other hand, describes a situation where an individual who may be involved in a conflict views the difference or conflict as a personal attack rather than an attempt to resolve an issue. From a somewhat narcissistic point of view, this person often attempts to focus on personal goals rather than another’s. This person may attempt to focus on unrelated factors that undermine conflict engagement. This type of conflict is characterized by someone who may be reluctant or flat-out opposed to compromise or even simply recognizing another’s position. Any opposition is viewed as an attack and something to guard against.

Constructive conflict can be had if the parameters and expectations are stated ahead of time between the conflicting parties. Constructive conflict can ensue when it is made clear that the conflict is not a personal attack and that the focus should remain on the common objectives held by the conflicting parties rather than the individual perceptions or goals. It may result in open communication and debate but also in creating sound ideas, decisions, and resolutions. This is not guaranteed, though. Both parties must be willing to engage and participate by the rules laid out for the conflict itself (McShane, S. L., & Von, G. M. A. Y. 2013).

It should also be stated that the motivation for communication between the conflicting parties should be high. If this is not the case, or if only one party is interested in constructive communication, then communication may not be something that can occur without some type of intervention by a third party. This may come in the way of mediation or arbitration.

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Meehan, C. (2014, January 1). Differences Between Destructive & Constructive Conflict. Small Business. Retrieved , from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/differences-between-destructive-constructive-conflict-1202.html

McShane, S. L., & Von, G. M. A. Y. (2013). Organizational behavior: Emerging knowledge, global reality. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.