Wherever you are in life, no matter the age or the institution, one finds conflict, and conflict in teams happens all the time. Understanding that conflicts are a natural part of life is, in my opinion, the first step to dealing with them. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and this thought process will logically result in differences in opinions. Team settings inherently come with unspoken conflicts. Differences in work styles, work quality and individual personalities are some examples. Anyone can work in a team, however; working in a team effectively demands for individuals with the ability to resolve conflicts in a timely manner. Any organization would benefit greatly from someone who is able to keep a level head and as such one could say that organizational success is tied to resolving conflicts in a timely fashion.
Types of Conflicts
Why is resolving conflict in teams important? No one has ever enjoyed working in a hostile environment. The Harvard Business Review discussed this recently in an article about the difference between trenches and bridges within organizations. While there are some exceptions to that statement, take the military for example, for the most part that’s the general consensus. A team will be more effective at achieving their goals when there isn’t someone constantly breathing down their neck or giving them the cold shoulder. Unresolved team conflict leads to personal conflict in which a whole myriad of different problems appears. As a result, not only is the organization’s success declining but the individual as well.
Here are some examples of conflict in teams:
- Work style conflicts
- Work quality conflicts
- Personality conflicts
In any work environment, the most common conflict is one of personality. Getting along with your peers/managers is a difficult task, especially if their personalities do not align with yours. Everyone works at a different pace, some take it slow and steady while others might speed through their tasks. On a similar vein, some individuals require little to no guidance on their tasks and others might need guidance every step of the way. Understanding that every individual is different and finding a middle ground or compromise is the first step in avoiding conflict in teams.
Knowing that conflicts are a natural part of life, how does one resolve them? Here is my go-to thought process:
- Stay calm
- Escalate if necessary
Staying calm is arguably the most important step when you are in conflict. Making emotionally charged decisions or comments only furthers the conflict. Take a deep breath – or several – and move on to communication. Most conflicts can be resolved by simply just talking it out. Ensure that every party gets to communicate their point of view and work together as a team to find a middle ground where everyone is agreeable. In certain conflicts, resolution does not end with communication. This is where you escalate to someone higher up than you to make the decision. It could be the team manager or the HR manager, ensuring that they hear every opinion from each party.
Most people have heard the adage “communication is key” at some point in their lives. Putting that to use in a team environment is the best thing one can do to avoid conflict.
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How do you manage with conflict in teams?