Uncover the Root Causes of Conflict and Normalise Healthy Conflict

Uncover the Root Causes of Conflict and Normalise Healthy Conflict

As leaders and managers, you play a crucial role in resolving conflicts within your teams and organisations. Conflict is a very normal part of any interpersonal relationship and when addressed properly, it can really help people to have better, healthier outcomes within their day to day interactions. 

Cultural transformation is the desire of many organisations, however, avoiding conflict and hoping it will just go away or resolve itself is not only harmful, it is a breeding ground for fear and toxicity. 

The key to unlocking the benefits of healthy conflict lies in your ability to both understand the source of dysfunctional conflict and then to normalise the constructive and healthy side of ‘conflict’. 


The SCARF Model

David Rock’s SCARF model provides a framework to understand the five dimensions of human social experiences:

  • S = Status
  • C = Certainty
  • A = Autonomy
  • R = Relatedness
  • F = Fairness

This model is extremely useful for prompting us as leaders and managers to ask questions around each of the five dimensions with the aim of identifying the possible sources of the conflict or disengagement. This in turn can assist in equalising any imbalance between the parties and create the conditions for enhanced team performance and a foundation upon which healthy conflict can flourish.

Below are some examples of questions you can ask yourself, your team, and colleagues to uncover and address the source of conflict.

S = Status

Refers to one’s relative (un) importance to others.


  • Could any of the other parties in the conflict feel that they, or their issue, is unimportant to the other party?
  • Do you feel this way at all – how do you feel specifically?
  • What impact are these feelings having on your / others performance?
  • How can you better empathise with – and validate, the other parties perspectives?


C = Certainty

Refers to uncertainty about what will happen in the future.

  • Are there any elements related to the conflict that you are uncertain about?
  • What could the other parties be uncertain about?
  • What could you do to get / provide more certainty?
  • Who else is able to provide a further level of certainty?
  • Where do you stand in relation to your goals, roles, processes and interactions?


A = Autonomy

Refers to a perceived lack of choice.


  • Does one or more of the parties involved in the conflict feel that they have a lack of choice in decisions / the way forward?
  • How do you feel in relation to your autonomy in this situation?
  • What could you do to gain / offer more autonomy?
  • What can you do to broaden the options / choices available to the other party?


R = Relatedness

Refers to a feeling of isolation or lack of connection.


  • Does one or more of the parties involved in the conflict feel isolated / not part of the group/team?
  • Where are the parties placed geographically?
  • Is there difficulty in staying connected?
  • What role does Trust play in your relatedness? 
  • How can you build better connections – particularly in Hybrid environments?


F = Fairness

Refers to perceived unfairness.


  1. Do any of the parties involved in the conflict perceive any unfairness in the relationship / duties / responsibilities?
  2. What are some examples or proof supporting this perception? 
  3. Are all parties aware of their role expectations and the value it brings to the team?
  4. How can this need for fairness be met for all parties?


Tips for Normalising Conflict

Below we have highlighted some very practical options for creating the conditions for healthy conflict:

  1. Encourage open communication and active listening
  2. Lead by example and model appropriate conflict resolution skills
  3. Foster a culture of trust and transparency
  4. Promote diversity of thoughts, opinions, and perspectives
  5. Provide opportunities for team members to discuss and resolve conflicts in a psychologically safe environment
  6. Empower team members to take ownership of conflicts and find solutions – avoid conflict triangulation i.e. bringing in a third party unnecessarily
  7. Provide training and resources for conflict resolution
  8. Address conflicts promptly and proactively, rather than avoiding or suppressing them
  9. Celebrate the positive outcomes of healthy conflict and reinforce the benefits it brings to the team and organisation


As a leader and manager, do you need some support in creating an environment where healthy conflict is appreciated? If so, you can contact us here.


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OMT Global

Established in 1989, OMT works with large organisations to develop the leadership skills of their people managers, from first-time leaders right through to senior-level executives. We provide a range of consultancy, training and development services for organisations that want to further develop and retain their talent. OMT excels in helping organisations move from ad hoc or one-off efforts to a new way of behaving and working.

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