Team conflict is common in the workplace where it may hinder productivity and the achievement of team goals. If management of conflict is not effective, it can totally disrupt the entire group process but successfully-managed conflict may benefit the group.
Conflicts may be caused by differing goals, values or perceptions of the team members.
Six-step procedure for dealing with conflict in teams
Conflict is a normal part of working in teams, because it brings creativity and helps avoid groupthink. However, too much conflict can stop teams for doing their work and certain procedures should be followed to get back on track. Guffey, Rhodes and Rogin have come up with a six-step process for dealing with conflict in teams:
- Listen: In order for everyone to understand the problem.
- Understand the other's point of view: Listening makes understanding the other's position easier. Show this by asking questions.
- Show a concern for the relationship: Focus on the problem, not the person. Show that his or her needs are cared for and an overall willingness to resolve the conflict.
- Look for common ground: Identify both sides' interest and see what you have in common.
- Invent new problem-solving options: Brainstorm on new ways to solve the conflict and be sure to be open to new suggestions.
- Reach an agreement on what's fair: Find a middle ground of whats fair and choose the best options after weighing the possible solutions.
Types of conflicts
“Hot conflicts” have three common symptoms:
- Team members persist in arguing the same points.
- When the team reaches impasse, talks gets personal. Accusations may be spoken out loud, and members may speculate privately about one another’s motives.
- Once negative attributions take hold, emotions flare and progress halts.
Allen C. Amason, of Mississippi State University, studied conflict and its role in decision-making. He stated that there are two kinds of conflict: cognitive — conflict based upon issues, ideas, processes or principles — and affective — conflict based upon personalities, emotions or values.
Researcher Thomas K. Capozzoli (1995) classified conflicts by whether the outcome was constructive or destructive. Conflicts are constructive when people change and grow personally from the conflict; the conflict results in a solution to a problem; the involvement of everyone affected by the conflict is increased; the team becomes more cohesive. Conflicts are destructive when no decision is reached and problem still exists; energy is diverted away from productive activities; the morale of the team members goes down; the team becomes divided.
- Tony Alessandra, Phil Hunsaker (1993), Communicating at Work, Fireside Publishers, p. 92
- Guffey, Mary Ellen, Kathleen Rhodes and Patricia Rogin. "Business Communication: Process and Product." Toronto: Thomson South-Western, 2010. Print.
- Alessandra, Tony Ph.D. & Hunsaker, Phil Ph.D. (1993) Communicating at Work. New York: Fireside Publishers.
- Cappozzoli, Thomas K. (1995, Dec). Resolving conflict within teams. Journal for Quality and Participation. v18n7, p. 28-30.
- "Resolve Hot Topics with Cooler Heads." Negotiation (May 2007): 12-12.