Relationship vs. Task Conflicts

When we think about conflicts at work, we see different behaviors and approaches.

It's difficult to keep relationships out of work for some people. Whenever someone criticizes their work, they take it personally and become defensive. We see this behavior in relationship relying cultures. For example, a stereotypical Turkish person slightly falls into this category. Whenever you give negative feedback on their work, they take it personally because relationships are essential at work as many people make friends. However, we see stereotypical Dutch people giving harsh feedback about the work in front of others without hesitation because they are focused on bringing out better work. They think it will improve their relationship with others because they show that they care about someone else's work. There is no right or wrong here; both have pros and cons.

However, when we focus on the conflict and discard cultural impact, task conflicts are more favorable in the business world. Relationship conflicts focus on how people behave toward each other. "She never listens to me, always becomes defensive," "he said that he would join the meeting, but he is always late to meetings where I'm the moderator." On the other hand, the task conflicts focus on the work; the goal is finding out the best way to finish the task. "The process changes you made impacted us badly, and I think we should have done the other way around," "We shouldn't merge the Pull Request who breaks the pipeline." Although these sentences might be directed to one person, their focus is on making things better, not making someone else better.

When we focus on showing people's weaknesses, they quickly get defensive. When we expose the broken processes and offer better ways, we unbind the feedback from the person.

Additionally, avoiding conflicts doesn't solve anything. Conflicts are necessary for improvement and growth and are a healthy part of relationships. Adam Grant said, "Without conflicts, there is no harmony; there is only apathy." If we always agree on each other, there will always be one side sacrificing something. They either hide their true thoughts or get disturbed after a while. When we always agree on it, it feels fake. The relationship doesn't look and sound natural. Each individual is different, but society forces us to be the same. Always confirming each other and avoiding conflict doesn't help us find the truth. When there is no truth in the relationship, we cannot be honest and, therefore, cannot form trust.

We learn from people who challenge our thought processes. Avoiding arguments doesn't showcase that we have a good manner; it means we ignore the other side and don't value their perspectives. Embracing and encouraging task conflicts are better to improve our collaboration.


These are my thoughts on a topic from Think Again by Adam Grant.

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Apr 15, 2022
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