In any situation where people interact over time and form relationships, you will inevitably have conflict. But not all conflict is bad. In fact, experiencing the right kind of conflict can be a sign of a healthy group dynamic.

If your team never has any friction or contention between team members, it may mean that someone is failing to speak up and voice their opinion. It may mean that one or more team members are not thinking for themselves but instead adopting the same views and opinions of the few who speak most loudly or carry the most influence. A void of dissenting opinions is not necessarily a good thing.

This can be a tough pill to swallow, though. After all, conflict is often messy and uncomfortable; who in their right mind would want to encounter it?

The truth is that conflict is unavoidable. Trying to hide conflict just forces it beneath the surface, where it transforms into a resentment that slowly poisons everything and everyone it touches. And you cannot simply banish from the group anyone who shows signs of friction; those in the group who remain will eventually be rendered ineffective through an erosion of trust and security.

Healthy conflict cannot happen when people are above correction or questioning. It cannot happen when titles and clout are wielded as weapons, or when seniority is used as a tool to hammer others into submission.

So what does healthy conflict look like? Healthy conflict is communicated externally. Communication happens when the conflicts occur, and not months after a wound has festered. And healthy communication is done in honesty, but with compassion and empathy, seeking first to understand one another; its ultimate goal is the greater good of those involved.