Break Free from Artificial Harmony: 6 Steps to Foster Healthy Team Conflict

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Artificial harmony is a common phenomenon in teams where members avoid conflict to maintain a sense of unity and prevent tension. While this may seem like a good idea, it can actually harm the team in the long run by preventing healthy conflict that leads to growth and progress.

A true story illustrates this issue: Three managers discussed a solution to a problem, but their leader quickly shut it down when one of them presented it. Rather than speaking up to support a peer, the other two managers remained silent and avoided conflict.

This pattern continued, demonstrating that being the messenger was risky business. The team learned that artificial harmony was more important than engaging in conflict, so they refrained from speaking up.

Patrick Lencioni's work on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is highly relevant to this issue. Lencioni argues that teams need to be able to engage in healthy conflict to make progress and achieve their goals. 

Without healthy conflict, teams can become stagnant, fail to address problems and miss out on opportunities for growth and innovation.  When team members are afraid of conflict, they may avoid difficult conversations or hold back their opinions, which can lead to artificial harmony. 

As a leader, it's your responsibility to move your team past artificial harmony and encourage healthy conflict. Here are six steps you can take:

  1. Encourage open communication by holding regular team meetings where everyone can share their ideas and concerns.
  2. Set ground rules to create a safe space for healthy conflict by outlining the boundaries for discussion.
  3. Create a culture of feedback where team members can give and receive constructive feedback regularly.
  4. Lead by example by modeling the behavior you want to see in your team.
  5. Focus on the issue, not the person, to prevent conflict from becoming personal.
  6. Reduce surprises in how people react to conflict. Use behavioral profiling tools, such as The Five Behaviors Personal Development or Everything DiSC assessments, to help team members better understand each other's conflict styles.

Don't let artificial harmony harm your team's growth and progress. By taking these steps, you'll foster a culture of healthy conflict, overcome artificial harmony, and inspire your team to thrive while working together. Download this infographic to keep these steps top of mind! 





Lisa Holden Rovers, MSc, CPHR, PCC, is the Founder of Workplace Matters. Since 2005, she has been coaching small and mid-sized business leaders to grow their influence and inspire their teams to thrive. With her data-driven coaching and training approach, Lisa helps clients improve collaboration, productivity, and well-being. As a certified leadership and team coach, Lisa utilizes solutions like Everything DiSC® and The Five Behaviors® to help clients leverage their strengths and build high-performing teams.

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