Team Dynamics and Conflict Resolutionin Work Teams
Charles, David, Mike and Ruth are assigned to Team A and start work on their team paper, “Team Dynamics and Conflict Resolution In Work Teams”. They seem to click as a team and encounter almost no emotional conflict, while their task-oriented conflict proves productive. Yet, somehow, tasks aren’t getting done as quickly as everyone on the team would prefer. No one seems to know which person is supposed to do what, and this is causing frustration.
Recognizing the inevitability of conflict in a work team leads to the next phase of conflict resolution: identifying the types of conflict. The most commonly accepted conflict model is based on two basic types. Thompson, Aranda and Robbins define these types as “A-Type; emotional” and ”C-Type; cognitive”, while Guetzkow and Gyr label them “affective” and “substantive”. Coser called the same two types “emotional” and “goal-oriented”, whereas Priem and Price refer to them as “social-emotional” and “task-related”. Pinkley recognized the “task” versus “relationship” aspect of conflict, as did Jehn. All of these experts agree that the two types of conflict have diametrically opposed affects on work group outcomes.
Type-A, emotional conflict, involves interpersonal friction not related to the task and is considered harmful conflict, but Type C, task-oriented conflict, revolves around discussion and debates about the task itself, and can promote productivity. In an article published in the Administrative Science Quarterly, Jehn notes a third type of conflict, “process conflict”, and proposes an updated model of conflict that encompasses three conflict types. Amabile cites Jehn in support of three conflict types, and defines process-based conflict as that which pertains to disagreement over who is responsible for what among team members. Jehn reports that process conflict appears to be counterproductive to team performance. Since emotional and process-based conflict are both seen as detrimental to team productivity, and task-based conflict is generally determined to be productive, it is imperative that the conflict type be defined before further steps are taken in the resolution process. A case in point is the undefined dynamic producing conflict on Team A in the opening real-life scenario. Using the accepted two-type model of conflict, Team A can rule out both emotional and cognitive conflict, which leaves no solid classification for their conflict, and adds to their angst. If the three-type model of conflict is used, it becomes readily apparent that their conflict falls under the heading of process conflict. This example illustrates the critical aspect of identifying the conflict type before moving to the next phase; conflict resolution.
There are many steps that a team can make in order to resolve conflicts. One example of conflict resolution is for the team to select the best time to try to resolve the conflict. Time is important because it allows each team member enough time to plan and brainstorm different ways of resolving the issue at hand. In order to correctly resolve a conflict within a team, each team member must be ready and willing to work at the resolution. All team members should participate to reduce the chance for a future conflict. If one team member is not ready to begin resolving the conflict, they are more likely not to try as hard to resolve the conflict. Take one of my personal issues into account of why choosing the right time to resolve conflicts is important. One day at work I was extremely busy trying to deal with past issues that had happened, and more events began to happen which pulled me away from my current task at hand. Everything seemed to be going wrong that day, and to make matters worse, a colleague of mine came to me to try to resolve a conflict between other peers. Since that was not an important issue to me at the time, I blew it off and that situation ended up blowing way out of proportion. I didn’t have time to try and resolve their conflict, and when forced to approach it, my advice was not the best that I could have given. If they had waited until it was a good time for me, I am sure everything would have turned out much better. In resolving conflicts, it is also important to ask the appropriate questions and provide the proper information. By asking questions, a team is more apt to decide on the best resolution. Also, when you ask questions to a group, you sometimes answer your own questions simply because you heard yourself ask the questions. Speaking your mind out loud is an excellent way to help understand the conflict at hand. Along with choosing the right time to resolve conflicts, it is also important to avoid resolutions that come too soon or too easily. Team members might offer solutions to a conflict just to be able to get past the conflict. Choosing a simple resolution is not the best way to handle conflict resolution. The best conflict resolutions are those that are thought about between the entire group, and that the team has had the proper time to think about all possible solutions. Teams should not accept one persons resolution just because it is easy and to get past the conflict. This could later lead to more intense conflicts, and could in turn cause a more permanent conflict between team members. However, not all conflicts are able to be resolved completely by each team member. Sometimes, it may be better for the team to just agree to disagree. By agreeing to disagree, you might be able to keep the conflict from interfering with the group as a whole.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, negotiate means “to hold communications or conference (with another) for the purpose of arranging some matter by mutual agreement; to discuss a matter with a view to some settlement or compromise.” Team negotiations are required in situations where teams must reach a consensus. Therefore, members of the team must reach a consensus for the decision to be binding. Team negotiations are required when a single person cannot make the decision, possibly due to the commitments required from other members of the team. Examples of situations where a team must negotiate are division of responsibilities or divisions of funds. These situations require the team to reach a mutually satisfying agreement, to ensure everyone will follow the agreement made. In summary, team negotiations are necessary for a team to reach a consensus; a consensus is necessary for a decision to be binding.
Counterproductive behavior, including reacting to unintentional remarks, name calling, and insisting on being right, can result in lower team productivity and cooperation. Reacting to unintentional remarks can escalate the situation, rather than letting it subside. This can also affect the team’s desire to resolve issues; and can split the team into warring groups. Unintentional remarks can be the result from angry feelings; they usually are not representative of the true feelings of the team member. Name calling is an attack on a team member’s dignity; it can also escalate the situation, and can result in retaliation at a later time. Insisting on being right causes the team member to ignore other possibilities for resolving a conflict or solving a problem. Consequently, counterproductive behavior affects the productivity and cooperation of a team by increasing tension among members, separating members into groups, and excluding an effective solution.
According to McElhaney, signs of escalating conflict can include personal attacks and confrontational statements, unreasonable demands, and inability to participate in rational discussion. Approaching an escalated conflict in an aggressive manner will only further escalate the conflict; active listening is needed to get to the source of the conflict. Once the true causes are known, they must be acknowledged. This lets the teams members know that the problem is being taken seriously; care must be taken not to put blame on any team member. The starting point to the resolution should be finding common points of agreement; to help resolve the remaining issues, compromises must be found through negotiation. Once the conflict is resolved, the agreements should be reviewed, summarized, and confirmed; this helps to ensure all members understand the resolution. In summary, escalating conflict must be dealt with by actively listening, acknowledging the conflict without blaming any members, finding common points of agreement, working towards compromises, and finally making each member aware of the resolution and their points of agreement.
Tom Feinberg has spent more than 15 years working as a professor at the University of Maine. Now he spends most of his time with his family and shares his experience about good essay topics. Tom Feinberg is a right person to ask about essay writing topics.
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