Team Dynamics and Conflict Resolution
The idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts is becoming more than simply an adage for many in the workforce. Team based-work has begun to permeate business organizations like never before, and according to the University of Phoenix (2004) teamwork is "Among the more noteworthy and promising approaches for achieving the dual goals of higher productivity and increased worker satisfaction
." (p. 2) Even as more and more companies shift their organizations to fit a team-based structure, Cole, Schaninger and Harris (2002) note that the management research field lacks extensive background material on the subject. In an effort to address this deficiency, they present the Workplace Social Exchange Network (WSEN). The WSEN attempts to understand not only the social exchanges between the individual, their supervisor, and their work organization, but to also include exchanges between the individual and his or her work team that enhance positive employee decisions. With the WSEN as a framework for understanding team dynamics, predicting a variety of factors that can affect the effectiveness of the team becomes possible. Still, some additional influences from an individual's background can also affect team dynamics. Lack of communication, different work ethics, and interpersonal conflicts are just a few examples. More importantly, broader groups of individuals categorized by race, sex, and even age can have profoundly different views on which social exchanges are most important. Does the WSEN model account for these background influences? By comparing workers from two different generations using the WSEN model, the answers may be forthcoming. The decision to focus on differences between the generations that currently make up the workforce is twofold. First, generational influences tend to cross the lines of race and gender. Every generation has characteristics they share in common that supersede other differences in background. Additionally, the University of Phoenix (2003) reports that workers today are likely to find a team setting much more rewarding than workers in the past. Part of this change in worker ideals can be directly attributed to two particular generations: the baby boomers and generation X. The baby boomers are typically described as those born between the years of 1943 through 1951. The period during which they were raised instilled a very different set of values in this group of people. Two things that are responsible for this difference in attitude include the expansion of higher education opportunities available after World War II and an increased "permissiveness by parents who had survived the Depression and World War II who were also reading Dr. Benjamin Spock." (Raelin 2001, p. 22). In addition, two major life events affecting those raised during this generation were the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War. The 60's reinforced existing humanistic values because of the moral and political guilt the baby boomers felt for those who were less fortunate. (Raelin 2001, p. 22) Because of these influences, Raelin (2001) suggests that members of the baby boomer generation have four specific cultural values: a defiance of authority, a desire to participate in decision-making processes, adherence to a service ethic, and a sense of anti-careerism. The values exhibited by this generation were very different from anything the workforce had experienced before. Now in their twenties and early thirties Generation X is the second generation of highlighted in this study. Also know as the baby-busters due to the dramatic drop in births from about 1965 through 1985, generation X is also a generation with a substantially different mind set. Technically, everyone born between 1965 and 1985 is a baby buster. Being a baby-buster; however, is more an attitude than age. On the surface, busters can seem positive, even bubbly. Many were known as latch key...
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