Why Managers Tolerate Destructive Conflict

Stephen was the manager of a work-group in a company where he was held strictly accountable for the milestones, deliverables, and the overall performance of his work-group. But Stephen constantly struggled with destructive conflict between two individuals (Sal and Christy) who had radically different approaches to problem-solving on key projects that had high corporate visibility – the basis of Stephen’s compensation. He had tried almost everything to minimize the amount of destructive conflict in the work-group and improve its performance. He has had off-site retreats, done personality testing, and held myriad team building exercises to try to transform the conflict from destructive to constructive. When destructive conflict erupted in meetings in the form of criticism, contempt, defensiveness, or stonewalling, Stephen tried to intervene using the problem-solving tools the group had learned and he tried to discourage this inappropriate behavior by giving Sal and Christy marginal performance ratings and decreased compensation. Stephen had even tried to transfer Sal (the most problematic person) to another department. But each time he tried to take positive steps to correct the situation, Sal and/or Christy went around him to Stephen’s boss Jane who intervened and then reversed some or all of Stephen’s corrective actions. Subsequently, Jane attended one of Stephen’s staff meetings to “set things straight” while Stephen was expected to sit there quietly and say nothing. Jane’s boss does the same thing to her. The Board of Directors does the same thing to the company’s CEO.

So if destructive conflict like the kind in Stephen’s work-group is so debilitating and squanders so much time and energy (resources that are unavailable to achieve goals and objectives), why do organizations tolerate and endure it? There are at least two answers. First, work-groups often lack the ability to change the organizational structures, systems, and culture within which they are embedded, and this accounts for over 85% of the causes of destructive conflict. Second, some work-group members view the cognitive dissonance and psychological pain of staying in destructive conflict as less of a price to pay than the inner turmoil and cognitive dissonance that would be created by disrupting the current way their world is configured.


Culture Talk™

Learn what organizational culture is and why it matters by watching Culture Talk™ – an on-line video series that explores key questions about organizational culture and how it powerfully affects day-to-day operations and the bottom-line in your organization.

Culture Talk™ Video Series

For more information on the Breckenridge Institute’s unique approach to improving your organization’s performance and sustainability go to breckenridgeinstitute.com or contact us at info@breckenridgeinstitute.com.

Organizational Alignment Indicator™

Is your organization unable to change in the face of forces and threats from the business environment? Do you make key decisions that go unimplemented or get reversed? Are you struggling against overly complex systems that frustrate and undermine your attempts to create positive change? Does your organization’s culture act like an Invisible Bureaucracy™ that keeps you from achieving your goals and objectives? These are signs that your organization is not aligned to get the results you want. The Breckenridge Institute’s free Organizational Alignment Indicator™ will show you what this may be costing you in squandered time and energy – hidden costs that don’t appear on the Balance Sheet or Budget Statements.

Free Organizational Alignment Indicator™

Just click on the link above, complete the questions in 2-3 minutes, and your free Organizational Alignment Indicator™ report will be sent directly to you. This is the first step to making invisible bureaucracy visible and to helping your organization get the results it wants.

HBR Editor’s Blog

Every month, the senior editors of the Harvard Business Review (HBR) invite internationally recognized organizational theorists and practitioners to raise issues and answer questions about leadership and management issues on the HBR Editor’s Blog. This month, we provide Pinnacle readers with links to two important and interesting discussions (see below).

John Hagel, How Knowledge Management Is Moving Away from the Repository

Sharon Daniels, Retaining a Workforce that Wants to Quit

We encourage you to join the conversation on the HBR Editor’s Blog and voice your opinions, commentary, and insights on these and other important topics.


Mark Bodnarczuk’s book, Making Invisible Bureaucracy Visible: A Guide to Assessing and Changing Organizational Culture is available at on-line world-wide at locations like Amazon.com.

Every organization is perfectly aligned to get the results they get. The new organization-wide version of the Organizational Alignment Indicator™ (OAI™) will help you align your organization’s strategy, execution, and organizational climate to get the results you want. It will also show you what misaligned structures, systems, and culture may be costing you in squandered time and energy – valuable resources that become unavailable to help you achieve your goals and objectives. Download a sample report. Contact the Breckenridge Institute® for details on how you can begin using this exciting new tool in your organization or with your clients (info@breckenridgeinstitute.com).

The Breckenridge Institute® is now using Michael Goldberg’s book, The 9 Ways of Working with its BTI™ certification programs and publicly available workshops. Goldberg’s book provides valuable insight into how co-workers and bosses think, what they want, and why they act the way they do.

For a more complete listing of on-line videos, books, articles, and white papers from the Breckenridge Institute® go to http://www.breckenridgeinstitute.com/our-publications.htm.

Breckenridge Institute®

If you would like information about the Breckenridge Institute’s research activities, portfolio of assessment tools, or consulting services, visit our website at www.breckenridgeinstitute.com. Also visit http://www.linkedin.com/in/markbodnarczuk.

Copyright © Breckenridge Institute® 2010. All Rights Reserved
Underwater Photo: © Annie Crawley, 2010, www.anniecrawley.com


Culture Corner

“All group learning ultimately reflects someone’s original values; someone’s sense of what ought to be as distinct from what is.”

Edgar Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership


The Breckenridge Culture Indicator™ (BCI™)

The new Breckenridge Culture Indicator™ (BCI™) is used to baseline organizational performance and culture and to help define a performance improvement strategy that includes both the “hard” technical side of integrating business systems with the “soft” human side of an organization. Because it can be used to baseline the performance and culture of an entire organization or a work-group, the BCI™ is typically used by top managers, business owners, and middle-managers when they are anticipating or experiencing significant change due to, substantial growth; reorganizations; changes in leadership; change in strategic direction; decline in business performance; mergers and acquisitions; sale or spin-off of business units; or major IT implementations. It can also be used as an effective alternative to 360-degree reviews because it allows you to evaluate a manager’s leadership and management skills, within the context of an organization’s structures, systems, and culture. The BCI™ is now available to qualified users 24X7 anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.

Contact Elin Larson for details on how you can begin using this exciting new tool in your organization or with your clients (970-389-4666 or elin@breckenridgeinstitute.com).

Books and Articles

Michael J. Goldberg, The 9 Ways of Working

The 9 Ways of Working introduces the nine personality styles of the Enneagram, a classic, highly powerful approach to work and life. Each of the Enneagram’s nine types has a distinct worldview that determines how they think, what they want, and why they act the way they do. You’ll recognize the personality types of the people you work with – colleagues, clients, bosses – as well as your own. And you’ll discover the most effective ways to work with these people:

  1. The Perfectionist gets things done right – regardless of the consequences.
  2. The Helper nurtures others’ careers – and demands to be appreciated for it.
  3. The Producer works hard to succeed – but can burn out in overwork.
  4. The Connoisseur explores his or her creativity and deep feelings – but may get lost in them.
  5. The Sage craves data, theories and insight – but may forget the human element.
  6. The Troubleshooter knows the secrets and who can be trusted – but can get mighty paranoid.
  7. The Visionary inspires with brilliant, fun, imaginative ideas – but leaves closure to others.
  8. The Top Dog exercises leadership – but may end up as a vengeful bully.
  9. The Mediator wants everybody working as a conflict-free team – but may forget his or her own goals.

Drawing on twenty-five years of teaching and consulting, Michael Goldberg’s rich descriptions catch the ‘aha!’ of each style with insightful anecdotes and real-life stories. He shows how each style is likely to connect with or miss the others, what kind of leadership is right for certain situations, and how each style makes important decisions and gets work done. You’ll see the special gifts and talents of each style, their limits and blind spots, and when they will shine and when they will wilt. The 9 Ways of Working is packed with practical tips and cautions for each style and for working with each style.” The 9 Ways of Working, is published by Da Capo Press and is available on Amazon.com.