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  • Writer's pictureMichele Evanson

Conflict and Team Dynamics-Part 1 of 2

Leaders must stay attuned to the evolving network of relationships that make up teams. It is inevitable that a team will experience a wide array of tensions as the relationships are tested with pressure resulting from factors like turn over, new hires, external demands, internal disputes, production changes, etc. It is important then that leaders stay sensitive to team dynamics and manage team conflict before it escalates.

Conflict Awareness

  • What strategies do you use to stay on top of potential team conflicts?

  • In your experience, what are some of the main causes of team conflicts?

  • When a conflict arises, what are some strategies that you employ to first understand the conflict and then subsequently neutralize the conflict?

Managing conflict takes considerable diligence and skill. Below are tactics that leaders can use to manage conflict:

  • Continuously ask yourself if the status quo is meeting team demands

  • Be willing to renegotiate team roles to fit needs and address issues

  • Don’t hesitate to recognize conflict

  • Check out your assumptions before taking action

  • Regularly check with team members to take a “litmus” test of team participation

  • Continually work to keep communication channels open and functional

  • Reaffirm team roles to keep them clear and recognizable

Workplace Conflict Causes & Strategies

Leadership and conflict go hand-in-hand. If you cannot or will not address conflict in a healthy, productive manner then you should not be in a leadership role. The fact of the matter is conflict in the workplace is unavoidable. The ability to recognize conflict, understand the nature of conflict, and to be able to bring swift and just resolution to conflict will serve you well as a leader. The inability to do so may well be your downfall.

Developing effective conflict resolution skill sets are an essential component of a building a sustainable business model. Unresolved conflict often results in loss of productivity, the stifling of creativity, and the creation of barriers to cooperation and collaboration. Most importantly for leaders, good conflict resolution ability equals good employee retention.

  • What creates conflict in your workplace? Opposing positions, competitive tensions, power struggles, ego, pride, jealousy, performance discrepancies, compensation issues or just someone having a bad day?

Major Causes of Conflict:

Communication: Most conflicts result from a lack of information, poor information, no information, or misinformation. Clear, concise, accurate, and timely communication of information will help to ease both the number and severity of conflicts.

Emotions: A common mistake made in workplace communications which leads to conflict is letting emotions drive decisions.

  • Have you ever witnessed an employee throw a fit of rage and draw the regrettable line in the sand in the heat of the moment? If you have, what you really watched was a person indulging their emotions rather than protecting their future.

Additional causes of conflict include: Competition for limited resources, clash of values, poorly defined responsibilities, change and the need for recognition.

  • Can you identify with any of these causes of conflict within your organization?

It is essential for organizational health and performance that conflict be accepted and addressed through effective conflict resolution processes.

Examples of Healthy vs. Damaging Conflict

Healthy Conflict

  • Disagreements that are communicated in a supportive environment that foster the generation of new ideas or ways to problem solve.

  • Tension that increases awareness or sheds light on a growing workplace problem.

Damaging Conflict

  • Name Calling.

  • Personal Attacks.

  • Silent and Withdrawn, afraid to speak up.

  • Cliques, gossip and rumors.

  • Lack of Mutual Respect.

It is important to note that there is no one way to resolve a conflict and often managers will need to utilize multiple methods to reach a resolution.

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