Conflict in the workplace can range from mild differ-ences about how to get things done to us-versus-them blood feuds that can cripple an organization. Conflict emerges in modest, everyday work settings or it can writ large (as Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian, related in her recent book, A Team of Rivals). Words that typically precede the “conflict” are telling — “managing,” “minimizing,” “avoiding,” “resolving” and even “surviving” conflict. And not every conflict can be con-verted into a productive conversation. But many can be re-directed.
How can we recognize them soon enough to use the energy of the conflict for a productive purpose? How can conflicting ideas, priorities and ideologies generate a crea-tive response?