The Nature of Conflict in Project-Based Teams

Topics: Conflict Pages: 15 (3915 words) Published: May 7, 2013
Final Research Paper


Northeastern University
College of Professional Studies
LDR 6110- Leading Teams Fall Term
Professor Julia Ivy

December 5, 2012

Anh Do, Yishan Chen, Zhu Pinchun Huang,
Steven Miller, Yajing Xu, Hana Zhang, Bowen Zheng


Our topic on conflict was inspired by the experiences we shared as a team in course LDR 6110- Leading Teams. At the start of the course, we were randomly broken up into teams. The demographics of our class are such that majority of the students are from foreign countries.

In preparing our presentation for our class, we researched the topic of conflict, power and decision making. However, the topic of conflict we found to be the most fundamental and crucial to understand in its own right to better understand the dynamics of power and decision making.

Levi (2011, Chapter 7) makes it very clear on the outset that conflict is not all bad and in fact has dimensions that are quite healthy. The fear of conflict, and more so its avoidance for the sake of conformity and preserving the cohesiveness of the group, can lead to the team being resistant to creativity and outside input (Nemeth & Staw, 1989, in Levi, pg)

The healthy and unhealthy components of conflict contributed to a better understanding of our challenges and using conflict as a springboard for greater productivity in our group. This was something we discovered only midway through our team on a five week course. One reason for this is the fact that we had very little time to form as a team. In addition, our team projects forces us to go through stages of Storming (conflict), Norming (establishing rules and responsibilities), and Performing (completing our task) (Tuckman & Jenson, 1977 in Levi, pg. 40) rather quickly.

Our seven-person team is made up of the following nationalities: American, Chinese, Taiwanese and Vietnamese. The combination of our different cultures, languages, communication and interfacing barriers, and having one older and more experienced member, made for quite a learning experience for all members in terms of leadership and team development.

Inspired by the dynamics of our team, we wanted to explore the nature and patters conflicts within similar teams here at Northeastern to see what aspects of the issues we underwent as a team were found in other teams on campus.

We divided clear tasks amongst our team to suit the strengths of each member, identified clear goals and created a reasonable time frame by which each stage of our research and presentation needs to be completed.

Even in the collaboration and preparation of this paper, we underwent both healthy and unhealthy aspects of conflict making this study very much alive for each of us individually and collectively as a unit.

We predicted that the nature of conflict we found in our team and in the teams we study will fall into similar categories and within the categories discussed in class (Levi, 2011 pg. 114 ). Although we experienced many of these conflicts as a team, and even came to resolve some of them, the nature of our conflicts should correspond to the teams we study.


In reviewing the research for our topic, we focused on two areas that address conflict in teams: Causes of Conflict and Approaches to Conflict Resolution.

Reasons for Conflict (Wendy)

We, as human beings, have our own characteristics. And so does conflict. In team settings especially, we need to understand the role and opportunity that conflict brings. When conflict is understood, it is easier to find approaches to predict it, prevent it, transform it, and resolve it.

Putnam (1988, p. 552) defines conflict as “the interaction of interdependent people who perceive opposition of goals, aims, and values, and who see the other party as potentially interfering with the realization of these goals.”

With this definition,...

References: Brusko, L., (2011) Organized Chaos: A Survey of Conflict Management Strategies,
Gender Roles, and Status in an Organizational Setting
Levi, D. (2011). Group Dynamics for Teams. 3rd ed. California: Sage Publications, Inc.
Olekalns, M., Putnam, L.L., Weingart, L.R & Metcalf, L
Putnam, L. L. (1988). Communication and interpersonal conflict in organizations. Management Quarterly, 1, p295-p300
Rahim, M
Schwalbe, K. (2010). Revised An Introduction to Project Management, 3rd ed With Brief Guides to Microsoft Project 2010 and @task. Kathy Schwable, LLC.
Wall, J., and Roberts-Collister, R., 1995, Conflict and Its Management
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