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Task conflict? We can deal with it. Relationship conflicts? Big problems!

Researchers distinguish task conflict from relationship conflict, and the difference can be seen in law departments. According to MIT’s Sloan Mgt. Rev., Vol. 48, Winter 2007 at 5, disagreements among law department members related to a specific task, such as what step to take next in an acquisition, are task conflicts. They need to be worked out, and almost always can be, or someone can make the decision.

But conflict among members of a law department that’s unrelated to the legal issue at hand – what’s referred to as a “relationship conflict,” proves to be harder to resolve and is universally found to be bad for a group’s performance. When members can’t agree to disagree, prospects for an effective working law department diminish sharply.

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