Conflict is the forgotten sibling of collaborative governance. Variably framed as an alternative to collaboration, a contextual feature shaping interpersonal interactions, or an obstacle to be overcome via deliberation, conflict lurks in the background of discourse about collaboration. However, few theories of collaboration directly address the role of conflict, and those that do focus on conflict as a macro-scale phenomenon, characteristic of a governance forum or participating organizations. Given the importance of short term, person-to-person interactions in shaping the overall trajectory of collaborative dynamics and outcomes, a micro-scale analysis of collaborative conflict is warranted. This paper develops a framework for evaluating the role of micro-scale conflict in collaborative governance, drawing on the case of negotiations to relicense hydropower dams in the Central Valley of California, USA. Data sources include four years of meeting observations, interviews with participating stakeholders, and written comments submitted during the process. The work first classifies all instances of disagreement observed during the negotiations to develop a typology of micro-scale conflict. It then compares differences in the frequency, type, and management of disagreements in high and low collaboration relicensings to explore the interaction between conflict dynamics and overall collaborative approach. In the high collaboration case, interpersonal disagreements occurred frequently, were more dynamic and mutable over time, and served to elaborate and refine management approaches. By evaluating conflict dynamics that occur at the scale of an individual interaction and the positive and negative roles they play in shaping collaborative outcomes, this research moves conflict from being a static barrier or contextual factor to a dynamic ingredient that can be managed to shape policy outcomes.