Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

2.5. Use a variety of strategies to deal with potential conflict in a team or group

ryanrori February 7, 2021

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Conflict happens when individuals or groups are not getting what they need or want.  Sometimes the individual is not aware of the need and unconsciously starts to act out. Other times, the individual is very aware of what he or she wants and actively works at achieving the goal.

About conflict:

  • Conflict is inevitable, it has always happened and always will
  • Conflict develops because we are dealing with people’s lives, jobs, children, pride, self-concept, ego and sense of mission or purpose
  • Early indicators of conflict can be recognised
  • There are strategies for resolution that are available and DO work
  • Although inevitable, conflict can be minimised and/or resolved.
  • Conflict is destructive when it
    • Takes attention away from other important activities
    • Undermines morale or self-concept
    • Separates people and groups, reducing cooperation
    • Increases or sharpens difference
    • Leads to irresponsible and harmful behaviour, such as fighting, name-calling
  • Conflict is constructive when it
    • Results in clarification of important problems and issues
    • Results in solutions to problems
    • Involves people in resolving issues important to them
    • Causes open and honest communication
    • Helps release emotion, anxiety, and stress
    • Builds cooperation among people through learning more about each other
    • Helps individuals develop understanding and skills

Identify and deal with conflict in a team / group

Team conflict is typically seen as negative. We tend to think of it as team members disagreeing, arguing and screaming at one another. 

Dealing openly with group conflict seems uncomfortable for most individuals, but these differences are a normal part of every team’s functioning. 

Most members of a team have to learn two fundamentals:

  • Having different opinions is one of the essential benefits of teamwork. 
  • Team members have strong feelings and emotions. A team cannot achieve its full potential if all that is allowed is logic or information. 

Dealing with a team conflict head-on can assist the team in finding better solutions and developing a solid foundation of trust in the long run.

Without conflict, teams can become complacent and not perform at optimum levels. The challenge then becomes, how should the team be prepared for this stage of their existence, and how should the team leader facilitate it?

Types of Conflict

Conflict arises from the clash of perceptions, goals, or values in an arena where people care about the outcome. If the management of that conflict is not effective, it can totally disrupt the entire group process. However the old saying “that which does not kill us will make us stronger” illustrates how successfully managed conflict can benefit the group.

Functional conflict is at a level that enables a group to maximise its performance, and the outcomes are desirable. However; when that conflict escalates to a level that disrupts the group and gets in the way of accomplishing its goals, then it has become dysfunctional. Managing that balance is the key to effective groups. Another way to categorise conflict is by focusing on its origin. How the conflict has evolved is clearly an indicator of whether it will help or hinder the group process. Some common sources of group conflict are:

  • Values of team members
  • Attitudes of team members
  • Goals/Expectations – the processes and expected outcomes
  • Roles and responsibilities of team members
  • Limited resources
  • Personalities
  • Interdependency
  • Increased interaction (frequency)

There are two types of conflict

  • Cognitive – conflict aimed at issues, ideas, principles, or process 
  • Affective – conflict aimed at people, emotions, or values 

Studies showed the presence of both types in any group setting; but it’s clear that cognitive conflict is constructive, while affective conflict is destructive. Constructive conflict exists when:

  • People change and grow personally from the conflict
  • The conflict results in a solution to a problem
  • It increase involvement of everyone affected by the conflict
  • It builds cohesiveness among the members of the team

Destructive conflict exists when:

  • No decision is reached and problem still exists
  • It diverts energy away from more value-add activities
  • It destroys the morale of the team members
  • It polarises or divides the team

When conflict is left unresolved, people become enemies, communication breaks down, trust is destroyed, and hostility and bad feelings are created and continue to grow. This type of conflict is harmful to the individual and the team.

Resolving conflict constructively is the most critical of team skills. Without this ability, the team cannot develop the trust and bonding that allows moving into peak performance. Conflict resolution is not a stand-alone skill. There are specific techniques and attitudes that are helpful, but conflict resolution interrelates with other skills.