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Hidden versus Open Conflict

By Trevor E Smith Posted: September 30, 2014



Hidden versus Open Conflict



Conflict is an interesting phenomenon. Sometimes it is there in our faces and cannot be missed or ignored.


The incidence of hidden conflict is less obvious and often missed. Yet, hidden conflict might have greater negative impact than open conflict.


With open conflict, the issue is there before us and beckons us to deal with it. The mere fact of awareness and the call to action opens the door to resolution.


On the other hand, hidden conflict can go unrecognized and grow like a cancer. Sometimes, it is only identified when much of its negative manifestations become apparent.


Hidden conflicts are a major threat to relationships and to effective teamwork. A high incidence of hidden conflict is a sign of a dysfunctional relationship. This is an issue that must be addressed if teams are expected to be highly productive.


What is the norm in your team?


Do this brief self examination to see what obtains in your relationships. 


Before you answer, we suggest that you understand that a conflict arises when one party has an unmet need.


They may deal effectively with it, However, the individual is conflicted at the point of the denial of the need.


The Oxford Dictionary speaks to: "A condition in which a person experiences a clash of opposing wishes or needs"


When viewed from this more inclusive perspective, the issue of managing conflicts takes on new dimensions. It should prompt an awakening of new sensibilities.


The emotionally intelligent among us will not await the breaking out of hostilities to deal with the potential of hidden conflict.


So on to your self-examination:




Self Examination


  • Can you think of a recent instance in which you were conscious that the needs of a colleague were not being met?
  • Are you aware of any steps being taken to address the issue?
  • Is it possible that the issue might be impacting your colleague negatively?
  • When was the last time you were open about a conflict you were experiencing with another person?
  • Can you think of a time when you were more covert or hidden about how you were really feeling? 
  • Why did you mask or hide your true feelings?
  • Is the current environment conducive to openness?
  • Would relationships and performance benefit from greater openness? 
  • What is one action that could lead to a reduction in the incidence of hidden conflict?



Certified Behavioral Coach Award


These are among the concepts that are addressed in the International Coach Federation CCE-approved Certified Behavioral Coach programme.


The award includes Continuing Coach Education credits:


ICF Core Competence: Communicating Effectively  


  • Effective Listening
  • Powerful Questioning and
  • Direct Communication

Coaching is now a required competence for effective leadership. Team and organization leaders must embrace coaching and mentoring to achieve success in the face of increased team member disengagement.



Contact us for more information. Next programme starts November 6.





Success with People Academy


About the Author
Trevor ES Smith is an author and people skills and performance enhancement specialist with the Success with People Academy. He is a hands-on practitioner in the areas of Inter-personal relations, Marketing, Sales, HR and Management processes.

He presents unique perspectives on inter-personal relationships, leadership, team building, customer service, technology and time mastery.