We use cookies to give you the best experience and to help improve our website. By using our website you are accepting our cookies.  Learn More

UK Coaching Research Team
Rapport Building and Communicating

Conflict Management

Offers insight into conflict management techniques for coaches, including outlining the differences between constructive and destructive conflict, and the steps coaches can take to de-escalate a destructive conflict situation

In your role it is almost inevitable that, at some point you will experience conflict in one form or another. The first thing to remember is that conflict is not necessarily bad; nor does it have to be a negative or disruptive aspect of your relationship.

Research (and real life experiences) show that conflict situations can occur for many reasons, including: 

  • Availability of you or the person(s) you are working with
  • Radically different opinions or values leading to disagreement over an issue
  • Not agreeing on realistic goals
  • A perceived lack of commitment
  • Poor communication
  • A clash of personalities
  • Poor management by the project manager.

Constructive conflict

Constructive conflict, sometimes referred to as ‘creative friction’ in research, is more likely to occur in an open relationship, where all those involved respect each other’s views and are not afraid to challenge each other. This may involve one or more people having to move out of their current ‘comfort zone’ and reflect critically on all aspects of themselves including their personal or professional opinions, beliefs, values or behaviour.

Outcomes that can come from constructive conflict include:

  • Allowing people to air their problems or disagreements, and discuss them constructively
  • Releasing tensions
  • Prompting new ideas/ alternate ways of looking at an issue
  • Helping promote understanding between people in the group
  • Building cooperation and solution-finding mindsets within the group.

Destructive conflict

Destructive conflict occurs when an individual is seen to be simply wrong in their beliefs, opinions etc or intransigent, in that they do not appear to be receptive to alternative views, values or behaviours.

Outcomes that can come from destructive conflict include:

  • Acting as a distraction to the group
  • Being hurtful to certain members of the group
  • Increasing or emphasising the differences in the group
  • Undermining parts of the group, or inidividual members
  • Alienating those in the group whose opinions go against the majority.

Before attempting to resolve a conflict you must first determine the cause. Using a medical analogy, a precise ‘diagnosis’ is needed before the ‘prescription’ can be written


The old saying ‘prevention is better than cure’ is relevant here.

Avoiding destructive conflict in the first place by building good working relationships and developing a rapport is much more desirable than having to manage what could potentially become a destructive conflict situation in the future.

However, you should also be aware of what strategies can be put in place to address and resolve potentially destructive conflict if and when it arises.

Some useful strategies are to:

  • Determine the cause of the conflict; using a medical analogy, a precise ‘diagnosis’ is needed before the ‘prescription’ can be written
  • Provide constructive feedback; try to remain neutral and objective, rather than becoming emotionally engaged
  • Respect all personnel involved and their individual needs; remember that it is not usually someone being right and someone being wrong, rather natural individual differences in opinion surfacing
  • Use positive body language; assess the facts of the situation and keep an open mind.

Related Resources

  • Talking Talent: How to Work Effectively with Parents

  • Support and Advice for Parents in Sport

  • Parent Power: In Support of 'Parents in Sport Week'


Unlock the secrets of #greatcoaching


Join our exclusive UK Coaching Club to enjoy 12-months unlimited access to industry-leading resources, member-benefits and offers that will help you transform your coaching.

Like this resource? We'd love you to share a link to it.

Want to reproduce this resource, or part of it, elsewhere? Please do the right thing and make a permissions request so we can licence its proper use.

UK Coaching Research Team