Fight or Collaborate? 5 Interpersonal Conflict Types

Interpersonal Skills
Knowledge Center

Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Fight or Collaborate? 5 Interpersonal Conflict Types

🔥NEW I just read an interesting article about personal relationship management. Peterson and Behfar argue you can and should broadly distinguish a conflict/collaboration continuum of 5 categories of interpersonal work relationships, depending on the extent to which the interests of 2 colleagues, people, or parties clash or are aligned (from most negative to most positive):
  1. CONFLICT (Enemies) - Trying to defeat or deny another's interest. Playing a zero-sum game confronting the other. Make sure you understand the other's strengths and weaknesses. Look for alles to help you win.
  2. COMPETITION (Rivals) - Working to deter another in order to protect or advance self-interests. Look for the common ground and analyze what really drives the rivalry.
  3. INDEPENDENCE (Neighbors) - Acting to neutralize the impact of others on self-interests. Reduce your dependency of the other.
  4. COOPERATION (Friends) - Maintaining self-interests while also advancing joint interests. Be careful as situations might change.
  5. COLLABORATION (Allies) - Merging self-interests with the interests of others. When parties have important shared key interests and will benefit from a strong long-term relationship.
No single strategy is always best; smart people know when and how to apply a particular type, possibly adjusting their own style to the other's, balancing their own interests with the other's, carefully considering the risks and trade-offs, properly deciding how much to invest in each person, and when it's better to postpone taking action or to walk away.

❗Tip: The main starting point is to understand in each situation you have (at least 5) options and so do your colleagues. Their style/preference (for this situation) might well be different from yours…

Source: Peterson R.S. and Behfar K.J., "When to Cooperate with Colleagues and when to Compete", HBR Mar-Apr 2022, pp. 143-147.


Competitive Team Member

One of the members of my project team works, let's call him Mark, works hard and often late into the night. Unfortunatel...

  Johan Roels
Consultant, Belgium

Fight or Collaborate... The Old 1+1 Story...

In my book 'Cruciale dialogen' I called this some ten years ago the one plus one game. 1+1=0 is what Peterson & Behfar ...


Interpersonal Undercurrents

While I agree with the presentation of Mr Peiterson et al there is still one more factor, I believe, called the heart-mi...

  Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Communication in Interpersonal Competitive Relations

@Johan Roels: Your 1+1 categories are very interesting and seem to focus on how various communication patterns establish...

  Dainy Arroyo
Manager, Mexico

Not Collaborating Co-worker

@Anonymous: I would recommend making Mark realize how important is that he collaborates with the team, everybody sharing...

  Michelle P. Tinio
Business Consultant, Philippines

Success is not a One man Event

@Anonymous: If success is very important for him, then play on that. Let him understand that he is part of a team. That ...

  Maria Elena Hoffmann
Management Consultant, Venezuela

Really Interesting!

I liked this article. I would like to know more about Murali's input. It sounds interesting to explore. At the same tim...

Student (Other), Nigeria

An Aggressive-Competitive and Non-Productive Team Member

I have a member in my department that would not response to some piece of information but was picking on and attacking a...

  Johan Roels
Consultant, Belgium

1+1 Categories

@Jaap de Jonge: You have appreciately understood 'my' 1+1 communication categories. Communication IS crucial, and dialog...

  Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Interpersonal Communication and Relations

@Johan Roels: Thank you for elaborating. Agreed, interpersonal communication is crucial in interpersonal relations altho...

  Johan Roels
Consultant, Belgium

My Take on 'a Conflict Model'

@Jaap de Jonge: Indeed, not alone for a tango you have to be two who are willing to give and to take in order to transfo...

Professor, Ukraine

Fight or Collaborate? 5 Interpersonal Conflict Types

I like this Five Interpersonal Conflict Types classification. Note however that one does not always have 5 options avai...

  Maurice Hogarth
Consultant, United Kingdom

Feeding Back on Mark's Behaviour

@Afiong and @ Anonymous : This seems to be a situation requiring an immediate appraisal of performance. In essence and ...


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