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Conflict Management and Resolution for Teams

By Tech_007 Nov 25, 2006 1340 Words
Conflict Management and Resolution for Teams
When a group of individuals with varying experiences, thought processes and expectations work together as a team, conflict is inevitable. While many people see conflict as a sign of failure, teams can potentially use conflict as an asset. Understanding conflict dynamics and cultural approaches to conflict management help teams to distill key points vital to a successful and productive resolution of team conflict. John Dewey (1934, p. 207) once said, "Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to observation and memory. It instigates to invention. It shocks us out of sheep like passivity, and sets us at noting and contriving". What did he mean by this statement? The thought of actually being stirred into observation and memory suggests something has to occur to get someone moving. The question has always been what motivates anyone into action? Types of Team Conflict Research has shown that there are all sorts of conflict and each conflict varies depending on the person conducting the research. In the book Tools for Teams, Leigh Thompson, Eileen Aranda, and Stephen P. Robbins (2000, p. 514) suggest there are four basic types if conflict: emotional, cognitive, constructive and destructive. Emotional and destructive conflicts lead to an inability to resolve issues. Cognitive and constructive conflicts are a necessary part of finding successful solutions as a team. Emotional Conflict Emotional is "personal, defensive, and resentful". (Thompson, Aranda, & Robbins, 2000, p. 514) and of is based on anger, personality clashes, ego and tension. Emotional conflict occurs when individual interests trump the interests of the team as a whole. This type of conflict interferes with the effort of a team to resolve a problem. Cognitive Team Conflict Cognitive conflict occurs when team members voice different ideas and is "largely depersonalized" (Thompson, Aranda, & Robbins, 2000, p. 515). As opposed to emotional conflict, his type of conflict is based on arguments about the merits of ideas, plans and projects. Because cognitive conflict is not based on personal feelings, it forces team members to rethink problems and arrive at a collective decision. Constructive Team Conflict Constructive conflict, as the name suggests, helps teams resolve problems and uncover new solutions to old issues in a productive manner (Thompson, Aranda, & Robbins, 2000, p. 515). It allows change and growth to occur within a team environment. Destructive Team Conflict Destructive conflict, like emotional conflict, causes dysfunction when a "lack of common agreement leads to negativism" (Thompson, Aranda, & Robbins, 2000, p. 516). This disrupts the process of all group members. Destructive conflict in teams diminishes the possibility of any problem resolution. Understanding Conflict Understanding and defining conflict terminology and conflict management is a first and important step in successful conflict management. Since conflict is inevitable in any team or group situation, groups must cooperate to reach a successful resolution of any issues. Since more than one issue, and more than one type of conflict, often is involved in the conflict, successful conflict management and resolution depends on a number of factors. Among them, teams must understand the different responses to conflict among team members. Consequently, there are many theories on the topic of conflict management. While they will find no single definition of conflict management, many theories have been produced that attempt to explain conflict and ways to avoid or resolve conflicts. Jeffery Krivis (2006, October, p. 6), a mediator and author, writes "In a world where relationships matter more than ever, mediation skills matter more than ever. Companies can locate anywhere. People can work anywhere. Clients can stay with you or go with a competitor halfway around the globe. So whether you manage employees or clients or both, it's critical to learn the art of bringing harmony out of conflict". (Jeffery Krivis, October, 2006, p. 6) As stated in the beginning, we must look at the different variables that may cause such conflict and how to resolve them. By breaking this down into different areas and showing exactly how the conflict can arise and how one's actions can hinder or help the project. Online learning places individuals into arenas that have never been experienced by the student. Here is a place where they must make their statements count without body language, gestures or tones. A simple meeting in a learning forum begins by introduction and quick telling of themselves to the group and hearing each one's experience. Geographical location plays a major part in the stages of conflict within a group. Conflict can be a great opportunity for ones personal growth, organizational development and advancement. This of course does not mean go looking for conflict in every aspect of your professional life, but be able to embrace it and see it as a positive thing when it occurs. This type of mental thinking can only enhance the learning process. To take upon a conflict with such a mental bridge to gap the problems can only strive for a better result throughout the company and the workplace itself. Strategies for Working with Conflict The article Conflict Resolution Strategies in OfficePro magazine (August/September 2003) suggests these five strategies in working with conflict: "Have clear job descriptions and expectations." (McNamara, 2003, August/September, p. ) People respond better when their job description is outlined in black and white. Admin people wear many hats in the marketplace and have to be able to distinguish each role and strategy to take when conflict arises. "Bring the parties involved in the conflict together to resolve the issue." (McNamara, 2003, August/September, p. 12) Being able to recognize conflict in a situation is always the first step to resolution. Open up lines of communication, study body language, verbal tones and facial expressions to learn more about the situation at hand. Just because people can notice conflict does not always mean they will resolve this issue. People will react all different ways and will have different responses. Suggest meetings to clear the air or discuss the issue at hand. Take time to realize each person involved may just want to be heard. "Put the specific issues in writing." (McNamara, 2003, August/September, p.12) This has always been a way to begin the resolution process when dealing with individuals who seem they are not being heard. These steps can correct issues or even bring them to the table during negotiations. People do sometimes want to be seen and not heard, but this will give them that chance. It will help in the managerial process by getting a different view on things and researching all aspects of the conflict, before suggesting a resolution. "Create an accountability structure." (McNamara, 2003, August/September, p. 12) This gives all those involved direct accountability of their assignments and a timeline to carry them out. When a conflict arises, this method can help strengthen the group and succeed. Members will take on a better understanding of their role in the assignment and where they fit into the puzzle. "Always value the working relationship." (McNamara, 2003, August/September, p. 12) Here is a chance to make sure that no one leaves the table feeling unvalued or unappreciated. Reiterate to the group the team's goals in relation to where the project stands as a whole. Make sure to let everyone know how important all those involved are to the project. Conclusion In conclusion, conflict and resolution will always be a part of the workforce. It is how we as individuals take on the challenge to understand, listen and even participate throughout life and the workplace. References

John Dewey, (1934) Morals are Human, Middle Works, Vol 14, p207. Leigh Thompson, Eileen Aranda, & Stephen P. Robbins, (2000) Tools for Teams, Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing. Jeffery Krivis, (2006, October) Negotiating workplace conflicts, Broker Magazine, 6. McNamara P. (2003 August/September). Conflict resolution strategies. OfficePro, p12. Temme, J & Katzel, J (1995). Calling a team doesn't mean that it is: Successful teamwork must be a way of life. Plant Engineering, 49(1), 112-114 Brooks, Mark. ( 2001) How to resolve conflict in teams, People Management, Vol. 7 Issue 16, p34, 2p

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