Interprofessional team conflict amplifies division and impedes patient care. Normal differences of opinion escalate to frank conflicts when members respond with indignation or resentment. These behaviors engender a workplace culture that degrades collaborative clinical management and patient safety. We describe the impacts of dysfunctional team culture along with interventions that can lead to more productive teams. In our case study, an interprofessional group of critical care clinicians recognized that their interactions impaired collaborative care and requested support. Two experts, a nurse and a physician, facilitated two 2-hour workshops with 18 critical care physicians, nurses, and fellows to begin transforming their dysfunctional unit culture. After establishing psychological safety, facilitators introduced the “learning pathways grid” to explore (a) how faulty assumptions lead to dysfunctional interactions and suboptimal results, and (b) how new assumptions informed by new insights enable teams to redesign their interactions. Through reflection and analysis, clinicians concluded that understanding other clinicians’ goals and perspectives benefits patients and families, helps clinicians feel valued, and fosters mutual trust. This exercise supports interprofessional teams to transform dysfunctional interactions by helping team members develop a mindset of humility and inquiry and remind themselves about the good intentions in others. To address conflict we offer a conversational approach grounded in curiosity, respect, and transparency. Ultimately, the most important communication strategy for effective critical care is caring about the perspectives and experiences of other members of the interprofessional team.
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