A team is a small group of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.1 Although student teams may not satisfy all the requirements of the definition, the degree to which they do often determines their effectiveness.
"Students do not come to school with all the social skills they need to collaborate effectively with others. Therefore, teachers need to teach the appropriate communication, leadership, trust, decision making, and conflict management skills to students and provide the motivation to use these skills in order for groups to function effectively."2 Faculty must take responsibility to help students develop their skills to participate on and lead teams.
Students bring different ideas, goals, values, beliefs and needs to their teams and these differences are a primary strength of teams. These same differences inevitably lead to conflict, even if the level of conflict is low. Since conflict is inevitable, one of the ways in which faculty members can help students improve their abilities to function on multidisciplinary teams is to work with them to develop their understanding of conflict and their capabilities to manage and resolve conflict. To this end, this document addresses the following questions: • What is conflict and conflict management? • Why learn more about conflict and conflict management? • How do people respond to conflict? • What modes do people use to address conflict? • What factors can affect our conflict modes? • How might you select your conflict management style? • How might you apply this information?
Why learn more management?
Listening, oral communication, interpersonal communication, and teamwork rank near the top of skills that employers seek in their new hires.3 When you learn to effectively manage and resolve conflicts with others, then more opportunities for successful team memberships are available to you. If we can learn to manage this highly probable event called conflict (we average five conflicts per day),4 then we are less apt to practice destructive behaviors that will negatively impact our team. Although conflict may be misunderstood and unappreciated, research shows that unresolved conflict can lead to aggression. Most of us use conflict skills that we observed growing up, unless we have made a conscious effort to change our conflict management style. Some of us observed good conflict management, while others observed faulty conflict management. Most of us have several reasons to improve our conflict-management skills. Faculty members should help students develop their conflict management skills. Most people do not resolve conflicts because they either have a faulty skill set and/or because they do not know the organization’s policy on conflict management. All team members need to know their conflict styles, conflict intervention methods, and strategies for conflict skill improvement.
What is conflict and conflict management?
Conflict may be defined as a struggle or contest between people with opposing needs, ideas, beliefs, values, or goals. Conflict on teams is inevitable; however, the results of conflict are not predetermined. Conflict might escalate and lead to nonproductive results, or conflict can be beneficially resolved and lead to quality final products. Therefore, learning to manage conflict is integral to a high-performance team. Although very few people go looking for conflict, more often than not, conflict results because of miscommunication between people with regard to their needs, ideas, beliefs, goals, or values. Conflict management is the principle that all conflicts cannot necessarily be resolved, but learning how to manage conflicts can decrease the odds of...