Contrary to popular belief, conflict amongst top management team members can be beneficial, as long as it’s the correct type of conflict. Research has shown that there are two quite different forms of conflict [1] that can influence business performance.

Cognitive Conflict – focuses on substantive, issue related differences of opinion, which tend to improve team effectiveness and help to stimulate new ideas and encourage innovation. Unfortunately, there can be a tendency for some individuals to adjust the focus of their argument when they feel their argument is being lost.

Affective Conflict – can then take over and the argument resort to one of personal antagonism. This change in focus can be very damaging resulting in a lowering of team effectiveness by provoking hostility, distrust, cynicism, and apathy among team members.

My own research highlighted the importance of individual team member Emotional Intelligence to overall business performance. In this instance the ability to recognise one’s emotional state and then be able to control it to avoid affective conflict, becomes an important management competence.

[1] Amason (1996) Distinguishing the effects of functional and disfuctional conflict on strategic decision making: Resolving a paradox for top management teams. Academy of Management Journal, 39, 123-148