Productive Conflict is Healthy

Productive Conflict is Healthy, Group Think and Unhealthy Division are Not, March 2021 Soar to Success

by Janet Kendall White

As a person who loved Star Trek, I will never forget the Borg and this saying “Resistance is futile” referring to the assimilation that the Borg was looking to do to Captain Pickard and the Enterprise. What does that have to do with productive conflict you might ask. Everything.

I was recently asked some questions in response to my January email newsletter that were very thoughtful regarding not only what is going on in our country but the impact on that in organizations. And when I say what is going on in the country, I am referring to the division and the strong opinions and feelings about the recent Presidential election in particular.  What do you do when you not only disagree and maybe even agree to disagree but also do not move off it and there is lingering “baggage”?

That got me thinking about all the available techniques and tools that exist to assist. It is what I really have spent my whole career studying, learning, and practicing in organizations. I could not possibly capture years’ worth of Organization Development and Organizations Systems into one article, but I can share some basics and resources for further exploration.

  1. Make sure that core values and principles are clear and serve as a foundation. For more on this see our blog
  2. Facilitate discussions using the ladder of inference below, getting people to come down the ladder to the data and then explore the meaning they made, assumptions, etc.


This helps better understand how you each got to the point of having beliefs you have and ultimately taking action whatever action you did.

A Simple Example


When you think about all the reasons why Andrea might sing with his eyes closed, they of course are many. The critic took that one piece of data, made their own meaning out of it, added assumptions, drew conclusions, adopted beliefs about Andrea and wrote a review based on all of that.

  1. Lean into the resistance and difference at the time it occurs versus trying to steam roll through it, ignore it, etc.


If those that disagree or speak up are punished in ANY way by chastisement, censorship, loss of position, influence, or power then a couple things will happen 1. They and others will now hesitate to speak up. Is that what we want in an organization? That generally does not make for a healthy organization of any size.  In healthy organizations of all sizes, being able to speak up, challenge, disagree topically is where the greatness comes from. 2. The resistance will grow and show in other ways.  If there is more than one that agree on the point, then they may ban together in opposition. See my colleagues’ book Beyond the Wall of Resistance by Rick Maurer

  1. Provide tools for leaders and all employees to utilize so that they have topical, healthy productive conflict like Everything DiSC® Productive Conflict and/or The Five Behaviors®Personal Development solution.


When people bring up concerns or what they deem as “facts” the way that those are dealt with makes all the difference as to whether folks feel heard and will agree to disagree AND move on or will increase in their resistance. If concerns and questions are raised and they are not properly addressed most humans will climb up the ladder, making up their own story which will include that there is a reason for things not being dealt with openly, kindly, and transparently.

Resistance is NOT futile and if handled appropriately is very healthy.

For more information, assistance with providing tools for your organization or just great conversation please reach out to me at

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