Managing Team Conflict

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Management 5000
2012
Managing Team Conflict
FINAL PAPER

management 5000

Table of Contents
* Describe the nature of conflict in teams
* Define types of conflict and describe how each manifests in a team * Identify reasons why team members struggle with conflict * Describe how a team leader can manage conflict within the team * Summarize my key learning, with recommendation for an intervention that may work in a group conflict situation Introduction

It is commonplace for organizations today to work in teams. Whether they be leader-driven teams or self-directed teams; the hope is that productivity, creativity, and results will be greater in a team environment. While this is a proven approach, any time you bring together people from differing backgrounds and experiences, it is inevitable that conflict will occur. Many people and organizations view conflict as a negative, or something to be avoided. Yet conflict, differences, or disagreements are a natural result of people working together. Also, without conflict, teams can become complacent and not perform at optimum levels. The challenge then becomes, how should the team be prepared for this stage of their existence, and how should the team leader facilitate through it? Types of Conflict

"Conflict arises from the clash of perceptions, goals, or values in an arena where people care about the outcome" (Alessandra, 1993) if the management of that conflict is not effective, it can totally disrupt the entire group process. However the old saying "that which does not kill us will make us stronger" illustrates how successfully managed conflict can benefit the group. The paragraph above illustrates why conflict is often termed either functional or dysfunctional. Functional conflict is at a level that enables a group to maximize its performance, and the outcomes are desirable. However; when that conflict escalates to a level that disrupts the group and gets in the way of accomplishing its goals, then it has become dysfunctional. Managing that balance is the key to effective groups. Another way to categorize conflict is by focusing on its origin. How the conflict has evolved is clearly an indicator of whether it will help or hinder the group process. Some common sources of group conflict are listed in Cappozzoli (1995) and Alessandra (1993): * Values of team members

* Attitudes of team members
* Goals/Expectations - the processes and expected outcomes * Roles and responsibilities of team members
* Limited resources
* Personalities
* Interdependency
* Increased interaction (frequency)
Allen C. Amason, of Mississippi State University, has studied conflict and its role in decision-making. He suggests there are two types of conflict: (These actually trace back to the sources listed above.) Cognitive - conflict aimed at issues, ideas, principles, or process Affective - conflict aimed at people, emotions, or values

His studies showed the presence of both types in any group setting; but he's clear to explain that cognitive conflict is constructive, while affective is destructive (Brockmann, 1996). Another researcher, Thomas K. Capozzoli (1995), reinforces this by describing the outcomes of constructive and destructive conflict: Constructive conflicts exist when…

1. People change and grow personally from the conflict
2. The conflict results in a solution to a problem
3. It increase involvement of everyone affected by the conflict 4. It builds cohesiveness among the members of the team
Destructive conflicts exist when…
1. No decision is reached and problem still exists
2. It diverts energy away from more value-add activities
3. It destroys the morale of the team members
4. It polarizes or divides the team

As mentioned above, teams are a powerful force in organizations. They are assembled to tackle complex and strategic issues within a company. Often the membership is a select group of people from...
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