What is Affective Conflict?

By Hadrat Ajao4 min read · Posted Oct 16, 2023


Affective conflict occurs at homes, in schools, and at our workplaces. Here is a scenario that describes its true meaning:

John and Diaz are colleagues at a PR firm. They are currently running a campaign for a cat food company. During one of their meetings, John proposed a detailed approach to getting cat owners and lovers to fall in love with the new cat food brand the client is producing. Diaz opposed and recommended a more radical approach that he promised will take the market by storm. The differing opinion led to a conflict between the colleagues and took a more personal turn. Diaz accused John’s ideas of being straightlaced and lacking the creative burst as it was the same old campaign strategy. John accused Diaz of having a spontaneous and reckless idea that was novel.

The conflict between John and Diaz reflects their lack of understanding of each other’s personalities and perspectives. The focus of their difference shifted from the varying opinions about how the campaign should be executed to the difference in personalities. While the conflict brewed, John and Diaz raised their voices, and aggressive actions and body language were let off. The conflict drifted quickly from professional to lifestyle differences. John and Diaz both displayed signs of affective conflict.

What Is Affective Conflict?

Affective conflict is a branch of interpersonal conflict; this indicates that it is a conflict that occurs between two or more persons. This conflict stems from emotional or personal disagreements due to individual or group differences and preferences. It is often characterized by raised negative emotions, high tensions, and hostility among the parties involved.

When affective conflict occurs in an interpersonal relationship or a group setting, it upsets the team dynamics and threatens team cohesion because a great team relationship is premised on trust and ease of interaction. Affective conflicts reduce trust and increase hostility and uneasy interactions among affected teammates and the team. Effective communication is hindered, and there is diminished cooperation, collaboration and shared inputs, and the functionality and productivity level of the group is significantly reduced.

The emotional outburst that occurs when there is affective conflict focuses on individual differences and takes the focus away from a logical conversation that could create a working solution to the ongoing professional challenge. The outbursts usually turn from the initial professional and ideological differences to an assumed personality and living differences between the conflicting parties or groups. It has to be understood to manage and douse a conflict.

Understanding Affective Conflicts

To understand affective conflict, also known as emotional conflict, one must gain insight into what causes it, its impact on the conflicting parties and the team, and the consequences.

Because these conflicts are emotional, they become wake loud outbursts, adverse reactions, unbottled resentment, and hurt. Affective conflict is often caused by passionate disagreements stemming from differences in beliefs, values, idiosyncrasies, or personalities. It can degenerate due to bottled-up grievances, misunderstandings, and discordance in communication styles.

If not immediately managed, emotional conflicts lead to dwindling work relationships and stifled interactions among team members. By understanding the emotional nature, causes, impacts, and consequences of affective conflict, one must deploy effective strategies to manage the situation so that the threatened relationships of the concerned parties can be salvaged. This step can lead to having a healthier relationship and the production of more results.

Managing Affective Conflicts

A tremendous interpersonal and intra-group relationship creates a seamless workflow among team members and promotes collaboration. While people cannot entirely avoid conflicts, they can manage them. Here are some ways to manage affective conflicts:

  • Have Emotional Intelligence: To effectively manage and diffuse affective conflicts, great emotional intelligence must be deployed. HelpGuide.org defines emotional intelligence as “the ability to understand, use and manage your emotions positively to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict.” Therefore, developing emotional intelligence is crucial for understanding and managing affective conflict. Conflict resolution strategies must also be deployed to get the team back on the productive pathway.

  • Avoid Criticism: When managing affective disputes between warring parties, a no-judgment zone must be established; creating a safe space for dialogue, active listening, and constructive commentaries is vital for resolution. This will encourage the conflicting parties to pour out their minds and express themselves without fear; it is essential that the parties fully disclose their feelings on the issue in order to have an open mind to resolution. Each party's perspective must be acknowledged and respected.

  • **Have a Respectful Communication: **An open dialogue should be encouraged. When a party listens while the other speaks, it becomes easier to pick out where they overreacted. Emotional brawls often leave conflicting parties raging, and all they want to do at that point is hurt each other; clear and non simultaneous communication will produce logical arguments.

  • Recognise the Value of Relationships: Explaining the importance of long-term goodwill and positive relationships will also help warring parties put the consequences of their conflict in clear view and also understand how their actions will affect the team.

These steps will get the conflicting parties started on a resolution journey.


When affective conflict occurs, conflicting parties lose focus of the professional challenge and the argument takes a more personal and emotional turn, with parties picking at each other life preferences and choices. Conflicts should not be viewed in an entirely negative light. If adequately managed, conflicts can be converted to lessons learned. Respectable team culture should then be propagated; a culture that promotes effective communication, mutual respect, emotional intelligence, and respect for different and rich perspectives.



About The Author

Hadrat Ajao


Hello, I am Hadrat, a communication specialist and an article writer for Pitch Labs. I am passionate about street children and abandoned women, with a special focus on the African terrain. I enjoy writing poems and creative stories.

See more posts by Hadrat Ajao



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