4 Point Friday: The Fear of Conflict

March 13, 2020

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"Don’t fear the conflict, fear the silence." - Ross Parsley

Does your team engage in productive conflict to vet ideas? Does it know the difference between “good” and “bad” conflict?

overcoming he fear of conflictOur continued foray into the five dysfunctions of teams brings us next to the second, which is fear of conflict. In his book (The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team), Lencioni refers to the fear of conflict as a limitation of teams reaching their full potential. Without conflict, there can be no real commitment, which is the third dysfunction and the next topic in our journey through the 5 dysfunctions. 


What is fear of conflict? It is fearing conflict with each other first and foremost, but also being transparent with each other and having honest, meaningful dialogue to discuss critical issues. There is little to no healthy confrontation. It typically stems from teams that do not trust each other, which you will recall is the first dysfunction. With no trust, there can be no feeling of safety, and without feeling safe, teams will not confront each other and fear conflict.


With no conflict, teams will not push themselves to solve issues and be uncomfortable to grow. Instead, they will remain in comfort zones and let potentially damaging issues continue to fester. Then, seemingly small issues can grow into large fires that can begin to break down relationships and the entire team.  The lead off quote, fear the silence, is when people just aren’t communicating and there are issues that NEED to be discussed. Silent disagreement is a trademark signal that fear of conflict is present.

1. Interesting article to read… on better managing conflict 

This article discusses some practical strategies for teams on how to better manage the fear of conflict.

How to Better Manage Conflict


2. Interesting quote on fear of conflict…

“The fear of conflict is almost always a sign of problems.” - Patrick Lencioni


3. Tools and techniques to improve…

This is a good article on someone’s personal journey to overcome a fear of conflict and stop being a “push over”. Sometimes, a team’s fear of conflict can be manifested or exacerbated by in visual team members conflict avoidance. It never helps, so if you are struggling with conflict, you should begin addressing it so you have the courage to confront with other team members.

Getting Over Fear of Confrontation


This is a great post below from buffer.com that shares some practical and effective exercises to overcome some of the team challenges around trust and conflict. The author also talks about “artificial harmony” within the team, which is what happens in the absence of trust and conflict. Teams just sort of “go along to get along”, which never ends well.

Tactics to Overcome Artificial Harmony


4. Test yourself… On fear of conflict

The test below from psychologia.co is a comprehensive one that helps you determine your conflict resolution approach. It is always good to understand yourself and how you tend to approach conflict. Having all team members determine for themselves is effective in that it can then be discussed openly to make sure the team understands how to best approach conflict when it does or should arise.

Test How You Approach Conflict Management


This test, also from psychologia.co, looks at how you tend view conflict, whether from a peaceful, confrontational, or avoidance stance. It also provides some practical tips on each of the stances at the end , which is helpful once you understand where you are.

Test Your View of Conflict


Understanding your personality type is also helpful to better understand yourself and your relationship interactions. There are many solid personality tests out there including Myers-Briggs, DISC, and Social Styles to name a few. If you have not a personality assessment, you should look to take one. It is also very helpful for the team to take them together so all understand each other at a deeper level.


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