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Reducing Team Conflict Through Open Communication

If you’re an avid Emergenetics Blog reader you know that we usually focus on the benefits of having a cognitively diverse team [1]. After all, it is a proven way to stoke more creative and productive solutions [2]. Sometimes though, differences between people can lead to disagreements and, if left unresolved, those differences can lead to team conflict.

In a previous blog post, my colleague Mark Miller cited a study from the Journal for Applied Psychology, [3] saying, “Conflict can be positive if the team is set up right. Specifically, task conflict had a positive impact on performance in teams with high levels of openness or emotional stability. The study also found that task conflict had a negative impact on performance in teams with low levels of openness or emotional stability.”

I think there are two very important factors at work here: 1) The above stated need for high levels of openness and emotional stability, and 2) the difference between a team disagreement and a team conflict.

In the workplace (and really, in life) misunderstandings between one or more people will inevitably arise. Differences of opinion are based on life experiences, values, needs, interests, or intentions. To disagree is natural; we all have opinions and ways of doing things. That’s one of the reasons why the Emergenetics Profile, which measures a person’s thinking and behaving preferences, can make such a difference in the way a team or an organization operates!

But if a dispute continues or a disagreement is unresolved, that’s when it goes from constructive conflict (cited by the study) to destructive conflict. Conflict destroys the cohesion within a relationship or organization and destroys the “we” idea that is key to successful communication within a team. So no matter how high your initial levels of team openness and emotional stability they will deteriorate as a result of conflict.

So, how do you ensure that your cognitively diverse team is respecting one another and communicating positively? How do you resolve team disagreements before they become a team conflict?

Well, the easiest way to reduce team conflict is to use the Group Reports function and/or the Compare Profiles function of Emergenetics+ [4], our free mobile app. Both reports will give you custom tips based on the unique Emergenetics Profiles of the people on your team.

The key here though (and the secret the effectiveness of Emergenetics+) is open communication [5], being able to understand the other persons’ point of view, and speaking their language. You can create fluidity in dialogue that is built off a shared respect for various perspectives. We know that people think and behave differently—even in intact teams from the same department or industry, there is almost assuredly a large variance in thinking styles and levels of behavior.

When it comes to behavior, remember that everyone behaves on a spectrum. Keep the following in mind to enable more open communication and reduce team conflict:

Open communication [5] is not only essential to the success of the business, but on a basic level, it’s about the success of every employee. Organizations that are communicating effectively as a whole are those that are reinforcing open dialogue by adhering to all perspectives and creating clear expectations.

For more ways of reducing team conflict and creating a positive and productive working culture, the latest Emergenetics eBook has guides that can be used for some of the most common organizational functions, including resolving disagreements.