Trust & Conflict: Why They Belong Together


“Trust” is one of those warm & fuzzy words.  It’s a word that just makes you feel good inside, and for good reason.  Trust is the necessary ingredient in any relationship – family, business, or otherwise.  The word itself brings a sense of security and breeds a confidence that one can handle whatever is coming.

“Conflict” is not a warm & fuzzy word.  It’s something most of us try to avoid.  Just thinking about the word makes you uncomfortable, suspicious, and edgy.  Many would say that it’s the core ingredient in broken relationships.

What a contrast in words.  So why would best-selling author Patrick Lencioni write, “By building trust, a team makes conflict possible”? (See The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, pg. 202.)  There are two confusing aspects to this quote.  First, Lencioni says that trust (that warm & fuzzy word) leads to conflict (that bad word).  Second, the quote implies that conflict is desirable. 

If you live or work in an environment where everyone naturally agrees with one another, then Lencioni’s quote makes no sense.  But if you’re like the rest of us, you need to revise your view of conflict.  Conflict can be good because it drives resolution, but conflict will only be good in an
atmosphere of trust.  That’s why Lencioni’s statement makes sense and why these seemingly incongruent words belong with each other.

If you never see conflict in your workplace, your organization is in trouble.  If you find a meeting ending early to avoid confronting a contentious issue, your organization is in trouble.  If the most outspoken person on your team always gets his way because nobody has the nerve to openly disagree with him, your organization is in trouble.  Why?  Because the absence of conflict indicates the absence of trust, and no relationship can survive without trust.

I strongly recommend that you read Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.  If you have thoughts or questions on increasing trust in the workplace, please post a comment.  We can all learn from each other.


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