Reducing Conflict 86 Intentional Conflict

March 26, 2023

Intentional conflict is rare but deadly in an organization. You do not see this very often because in most organizations people are at least trying to get along. I believe that people working in close proximity have a remarkable ability to drive each other crazy. 

Intentional conflict is a different animal

Intentional conflict is caused when one person tries to get under the skin of another individual. The root cause of the angst can be any number of different factors, but the results are the same. There is a constant bombardment of annoying actions by one person with the purpose of riling up the opponent.

Conventional conflict reduction techniques, such as a mediator or teambuilding are less effective in this situation. You need to change the corrective approach to have any hope of resolution. You must start further back.

Start with why there is intentional conflict

Recognize that the person is going against human nature. People instinctively know that getting along with their peers leads to a happier life for them.  There must be a reason for acrimony beyond the normal give and take. Do some analysis and ask why this person would go out of his way to be mean constantly. 

Stopping intentional conflict requires addressing the root causes of the conflict and implementing effective communication strategies. Here are some steps you can take to stop intentional conflict:

  1. Try to identify the root causes. Determine the underlying causes of the conflict by actively listening to each party and gathering information about the situation. It could reflect jealousy, revenge, extreme bias, fear, systemic hatred, or a number of other factors.
  2. Promote effective communication. Encourage open and honest communication between the parties involved. It helps to clarify misunderstandings and reduce tension.
  3. Encourage compromise. Help the parties to find common ground and identify areas where they can compromise. Finding areas of agreement helps to reduce tensions and leads to a resolution.
  4. Use a mediator. If the conflict is particularly difficult to resolve, consider using a mediator to help facilitate the negotiation process.
  5. Promote positive relationships. Encourage positive relationships between the parties involved in the conflict. Finding peace helps to build trust and reduce the likelihood of future conflicts.
  6. Address underlying issues. Address any underlying issues that may be contributing to the conflict. Power imbalances, discrimination, external conditions, or cultural differences can cause the problem.

Remember that stopping intentional conflict takes time, patience, and a willingness to listen and understand different perspectives. It may also require the involvement of trained professionals such as mediators, conflict resolution specialists, or mental health professionals.

Start small

If you are facing this condition in your group, recognize that you have a major problem.  In most situations, people are willing to at least listen to the issues and work toward solutions. With this condition, you are dealing with a person who is sick and needs help. You are not going to cure stage-four cancer with an aspirin.

Get some professional help and look for tiny clues relative to the history of this problem. You want to uncover the genesis of such a negative attitude toward another person. It could be a long-gone incident that colored the relationship.  It could also be a stereotypical attitude from the person’s upbringing.

For example, suppose your mother was murdered by a person of a particular nationality. That situation might make it impossible for you to accept another person from that country.

Worst comes to worst, cut the cord

If all the above steps do not lead to a better situation, then you need an analysis. Is keeping this disruptive person on the team a wise decision? Recognize there are some bad apples in this world and take decisive action.


Resolving a case of intentional conflict is a daunting task. Do not ignore the problem hoping it will go away.

Bob Whipple, MBA, CPTD, is a consultant, trainer, speaker, and author in the areas of leadership and trust.  He is the author of The Trust Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Leading with Trust is Like Sailing Downwind.  Bob has many years as a senior executive with a Fortune 500 Company and with non-profit organizations. 



Leadership Barometer 51 Attitude

May 22, 2020

The one thing you really can control in life is your attitude, yet most people view their attitude as the result of external things happening to them rather than a conscious decision.

In this article, I would like to explore some ideas that can help make your choice more intentional.

These ideas are not new or unique; they have been expressed by numerous authors or scientists over centuries, and yet they are easily forgotten by anyone in the heat of the moment.

Several philosophers have expressed the same ideal, “what determines the quality of your life is not what happens to you but how you react to what happens to you.”

As we were forced to change our way of life in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had a classic example of how external conditions beyond our control can force us to do things that are uncomfortable and challenging.

Many people became depressed and withdrawn during the shutdown of much of our society: some resorted to suicide. Some people found joy and opportunity by focusing on the one thing they really could control: their mind.

If you choose to change conditions for the better, get some material on mental imaging and start changing your life. The more depressed you are, the more you have to gain.

Most of the time you cannot change the conditions being presented to you by the world, but most of the time you can control your attitude or reactions so that your state of mind is much more enjoyable.

This philosophy is not that profound, and we have all heard some form of it numerous times before. Some people call it “mind over matter.” Norman Vincent Peale called it “The Power of Positive Thinking,” while Earl Nightingale made the observation that “We become what we think about.”

One helpful book is the classic, Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz (1960). Maltz became fascinated with the process of setting goals for his plastic surgery patients. He learned that the power of self-affirmation and mental visualization techniques were enabled by the connection between the mind and the body.

Maltz taught how developing a positive inner vision was a means of developing a positive outer vision. This led to the idea that a person’s outer success almost never rises above the one visualized internally.

Many other philosophers such as Zig Zigler, Tony Robbins, Earl Nightingale, and Brian Tracy have based much of their work on the theories developed by Maltz.

Unfortunately, when we are miserable, it is hard to remember that we can be in control if we want to assume that control. When you get depressed, try the visualization techniques and set a positive goal. They can make a big difference in your life. Paradise is not as far away as it seems.

There is a wonderful TedTalk on this topic by Colin O’Brady. His legs were severely burned in an accident, and the doctors said he would never walk again. But with grit, determination, and the help of his exceptional mother, he went on to become a triathlon champion and set two world records for completing the Explorer’s Grand Slam (climbing the highest mountain on the seven continents in record time).

There are stories of POWs who have achieved a state of joy and gratitude for life even as they were being starved and tortured. One such individual was Viktor Frankel during WWII in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

Viktor was a psychologist in Vienna living a comfortable life when he was nabbed by the Nazis and brought to the camp. He was treated with disdain and was starved and beaten, like most POWs.

He was curious about why some people survived, while most others quickly died. He described the survival instinct as the realization that there was something significant to live for, or something yet to do in their life. Once they were reminded of their purpose for living, they were empowered to endure their hopeless situation and survive.

In Viktor’s own situation, he was able to use the power of visualization to rise above the incredible conditions of the moment and feel peace and joy, even among the dying and hopeless people. After the war, he wrote a book on his observations entitled “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

What prison do you live in? Does it sometimes feel like you are suffering needlessly at work or at home? Are the managers in your organization kind of reminiscent of prison guards, or at least schoolyard bullies?

Do you feel there is little hope to be happy or content with the conditions that exist around you? If that describes you, then realize you are making a choice. You are choosing to not live in paradise when the opportunity is there for you to do so, or at least to improve your frame of mind significantly.

The preceding information was adapted from the book Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind, by Robert Whipple. It is available on

Robert Whipple is also the author of The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online, and Trust in Transition: Navigating Organizational Change. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.