In recent years there has been a significant increase in team collaboration
and team work. Many of the projects in companies are now carried out with small
teams and running teams smoothly has become a critical part of corporate life.
Unfortunately, because teams are more collaborative, teams can create conflicts.
This article explores the nature of these conflicts.
Research carried out on 1000s of companies show that there are mainly three types of responses given to conflicts which are not particularly effective. These are as follows:
Ignoring or Avoiding Conflicts
One of the most common responses to conflict among team members is that they simply act as if the conflict does not exist. They think that if they leave the conflict, it will just die out on its own.
The problem is that conflict can be contagious. So if it not confronted, it can easily spread to others and before you know you will have chaos.
The biggest problem with this approach of managing teams is that it creates an environment of passivity. People no longer care to get involved which over time comes to destroy the team as a whole.
This mentality also leads to avoiding difficult decisions. Rather than have an effective, creative and flexible team you end up with a committee of people concerned more with their own survival than solving problems and moving forward. The team becomes defensive and rather leader-dependant. Eventually, a vicious cycle emerges where team members mistrust others and feel they have been taken advantage of and look forward to retaliate. Before you know, the team will be gone.
Coming to an Agreement
Sometimes, in order to solve a conflict, the parties try to come to some sort of an agreement. If the agreement is not a sound solution to the underlying problem, it is likely that the conflict will emerge again later on. Re-emerged problems can prove to be much more difficult to solve.
Hence, solving problems just to get rid of a conflict is not a long term solution.
A third choice is when team members don’t ignore the problem, or come to a quick agreement, they then follow protracted negotiation tactics and office politics to solve the problem. Common tactics include favouritism, information denial and manipulation. Naturally, none of these come to help the team come closer or increase bonding.
There are several problems with this kind of approach:
- Solutions are suboptimal since usually not all the resources or opinions are considered.
- Because solutions are not optimal, it is likely that problems will emerge again later on.
- Because there is a degree of “arm twisting” to reach solutions, those who did not buy the solution may not be that eager to participate in the solution.
- The “losing” part of the team may look for ways to undermine the solution and hence showcase its shortfalls.
- The “losing” side may not be enthusiastic in the future to provide inputs in fear of being beaten again in another set of negotiations hence losing control even more and losing face.
- Manipulations lead to an environment of mistrust. Any suggested idea is then treated as an agenda of someone rather than just a suggestion.
A team leader must be fully aware of the above approaches of leadership and teambuilding so he can take steps to avoid them.
A balanced approach to conflict management is the best way forward for ideal team building. A great way to allows teams practice over these issues in to provide team building training and conflict management training. Companies can also use team building training materials and conflict management training materials to prepare custom courses for their specific teams. See training resources provided below for more details.