The nature of "conflict" seems like such a straightforward concept. Conflict has been around since there have been opposing forces of any kind. A conflict can be found anywhere. Proton and neutrons struggle against each other and tribes fighting for territory can all be seen as examples of conflict.

Thinking back it is hard to remember my life without conflict. Whether it be fighting with my brothers for the television remote or arguing with my parents over my curfew, conflict is as much a part of anyone's life as sleeping or eating. For many the simple act of getting out of bed in the morning can spawn a serious conflict. The decision to respond to the ringing of ones alarm or to just roll over and sleep in is a conflict for millions of working people everyday. This last example is really trivial when you consider that people die from major types of conflicts such as war and genocide. Hitler's struggle with the citizens of the Jewish Tradition resulted in the death of millions of innocent people.

This of course, is conflict at an extreme, but nevertheless shows how complex a conflict can become. One of the major challenges of today's day and age that occurs on a much more regular basis is the conflict found in the corporate office environment. Work-Team conflict is growing as quickly as corporate America. Ever since the Work-Team was introduced to enhance office productivity conflict has risen in direct proportion to the amount of time and space proximity that the working team shares. This should be a natural result considering that the more time you spend with someone, the more comfortable you will become and as such, more prone to conflict.

This is compounded by the fact that many office settings endorse conflict as a means to increase creativity, competition, and overall office productivity. This constructive conflict is an advantage to a workplace for those reasons. Another great benefit of office conflict in teams is the "meeting of the minds". Conflict and the subsequent compromise born in this type of environment encourages "Thinking Out of the Box" which can lead a company to new focuses and ideas never found in a traditional independent working approach.

There may be less conflict in a setting with independent workers, but they will lack the ingenuity created from conflicts in teams. This atmosphere can also degenerate, creating disadvantages in the work place that in some cases surpass any positive net effects of Work-Team situations. Because of the fact that negative conflict always seem to outweigh the positive conflicts, many workers can feel bogged down by working in groups for many reasons. If everyone does not accomplish their fair share of the team's work, one person may become overwhelmed with his or her group responsibilities. The inability to compromise over a given solution to a problem is also cause for difficulty under Work-Team conditions. Too much conflict within any group can ultimately take up valuable time and destroy productivity leaving office personnel emotional and less apt to produce superior work results.

The worker who is independent does not need to worry as much about conflict that will severe a working relationship, but sometimes the independent worker will miss out on conflict that inspires high-quality output as a good Work-Team will deliver more times than not. Several issues can arise when individuals work together in a team. No team is alike, as personalities vary with each member. A very important thing that needs to be implemented early on is role playing.

Each member has strengths and weaknesses, and a positive thing with teams is sharing talents and abilities to better the work performance. It is very important that each team spends time defining strengths and weaknesses, so that there is an adequate representation of skills. This is mostly important in defining skills and making team productivity more efficient. Obviously not everyone can be a leader, so one should be designated right away to avoid possible conflict. There are other roles that others can participate in, and a team is only successful when all members fulfill what is expected of them.

Major conflict can occur when one or more team members become lazy or do not complete their work accurately. Teams are only productive when the work is spread around. Whatever the group members contribute to the team is what the team can expect to be produced. No group can truly succeed without participation from all of the team members.

Another major issue that needs to be discussed in the first or second meeting is defining the goals and strategies. Having a sense of commitment is key to success in any work group. Defining what we want to achieve with the team, and how we plan to gain achievement, can definitely help the team stay motivated and on task. In order to succeed in a group, all members must have a sense of mutual accountability.

No one person should do the majority of the task; instead, all members need to contribute their part. Conflict of interest between team members can ruin team work and wreck relationships. How people deal with the conflict is a major obstacle that many people have to face. Discussing possible problems along with possible solutions can help solve situations even before they surface.

Also, it is good to be aware of the common group pitfalls, so each person can be proactive in preventing the situations from forming. As more and more organizations structure to work teams, the need for training in conflict resolution will continue to grow. Varney (1989) reports that conflict remained the number-one problem for most of the teams operating within a large energy company, even after repeated training sessions on how to resolve conflict and how to minimize the negative impact on team members. One reason for this may be that managers and other leaders within organizations are not giving the issue of resolving conflict enough attention. Varney's research showed that although most managers are aware of disagreements and have received training in conflict resolution, they seldom assign high priority to solving conflict problems. With this in mind, it is critical that team members possess skills to resolve conflict among them.

Every work team goes through four phases: . Forming. Storming. Norming (and).

Performing Each of these stages is important to create an effective team. Storming gives an avenue to bring out the creative conflict nature of humans, thus adding to the quality of the end product. Norming is the stage where every team member comes together and brings out each individual's role. Norming is important for adding efficiency to the team.

The end product of the first three stages is the formation of a cohesive, efficient and a high quality team. It is important to understand that conflict resolution is not a means to curb all conflict, as that would adversely affect the creativity of the team negatively. Conflict resolution involves methods so that each team member can work cohesively and inputs his or her best to the final team deliverable. When conflict occurs, there are several ways to handle it. Various researchers have worked on this topic and have coined their own phrases for ways and means to resolve conflict.

However, since no two-conflict situations can be the same, there is no single set of rules to follow, which an individual or a group of individuals can use to determine the right method to resolve a specific conflict The right conflict resolution strategy depends upon various factors such as the kind of work team, whether it is a groups of peers or an official team with a team leader, a moderator etc. Conflict resolution will also depend upon the real conflict at hand. After all, sometimes a conflict may arise about an issue that may really not be important for the end goal of the team. In such a scenario, it may be best to retreat and just go with one strategy either based on the majority rule or just the ease of going with one over the other. It may not be worth the effort to resolve a conflict that really would not matter after a few days, weeks or months. Another factor while resolving conflicts may be the maturity level of its team members.

Depending upon the maturity a negotiation or mediation method may be adopted. These will be discussed in more detail later. Sometimes, it is best to approach a conflict situation head on by discussing and brainstorming over the issue at hand. However, care should be taken in such cases so that if criticism is used, the comments should not be targeted towards an individual. When resolving conflicts through direct confrontation, it is important that the team has an effective leader who can control the team and also moderate the discussion and keep the team on track. In such a situation it is important that the team members keep the end goal in mind.

Mutual negotiation among team members is another very effective conflict resolution technique. This goes hand in hand with the direct approach as mentioned above. Mutual negotiation can be very effective method of resolving conflicts if the roles of team members are clearly defined and there is mutual respect among team members for the respective roles they play. Take for example the case of a branch manager and a staff member, who are in conflict over work hours.

The branch manager expects all staff to work standard hours, beginning at 8: 00 am so that the public will receive service starting first thing in the morning. The staff member wants to begin work at 9: 00 am, because he has child care responsibilities. On several occasions the staff member has arrived late, which makes it appear to the manager that the employee is being deliberately unwilling to follow the rules. Rather than the situation deteriorating, the parties approach the situation, not as one that should be won, but with an eye on solving a problem. After discussing the situation, (and understanding each other's needs), they realize that a) almost no customers call in the early morning b) the few that do can be handled by other staff who like to be in at 8: 00, and b) there are more customers calling in between 4: 00 and 5: 00 pm. The parties agree that it makes sense to modify work hours.

The result: a happier employee and better service. These benefits would never have occurred if this conflict hadn't occurred, or if either party played the situation as if it was a game to be one by one person or the other. (Did anybody really lose in this situation? ). The same situation could have been handled in an entirely different manner as follows: When the branch manager approached the staff member about the tardiness, he showed his irritation plainly. The staff member, already feeling under the gun, felt that the manager was being unfair, and accusatory, and became defensive.

This, in turn, resulted in the manager "laying down the law", and that was how the situation was left. After the discussion, the manager felt the employee was lazy and making excuses, while the employee felt the boss was out to get him. Not surprisingly, the situation got worse. Even when the staff member was a few minutes late, for good reason, the boss jumped on him like a "ton of bricks".

The employee, angered and frustrated, started taking longer coffee breaks and was away "sick" more frequently. The situation became increasingly polarized, with other people being sucked in, and taking sides, privately. Oddly enough, the initial perceptions of both boss and employee became the truth. After a while the boss acted as if he was out to get the employee, and the employee acted as if he was lazy and uncaring. The original issue was all but forgotten, as the parties developed an intense dislike of each other.

Involving a third party or a mediator may be another effective method of conflict resolution. The mediator may be a neutral member of the team, the team leader or maybe a member from outside the team. Sometimes, mediation would require compromise on both sides and maybe both the parties under conflict may be dissatisfied with the final decision. The litmus test under these situations is to see how it effects the team goal. A last resort for conflict resolution in extreme situations can be to enforce team rules and come to dispel a conflict. However, it is important to understand that when these kinds of conflict resolution strategies are used, it is time to re-evaluate the roles of group members, redefine the working rules of the team or in rare cases even reconstitute the team.

Though conflict is a necessary poison, avoiding personal conflict can improve team productivity as well as foster team relationships. By following some very basic rules for group behavior, we can avoid conflicts in work teams. If each team member shares information among team members, keeps an open mind for suggestions from other team members and is flexible and willing to change with the requirement of the team, the team can soar to high levels in terms of productivity, quality and efficiency. One of the basic rules for working in a team is to always keep the end goal in focus. If every individual member in team asks the question to himself, "How does this relate to our task? ", a lot of conflicts will die before even popping up their head. By performing regular group and self assessments, each team member can avoid conflict situations to arise within the team.

In conclusion, while often frustrating, the tension and struggle inherent in conflict sows its own seed for innovative resolution and growth. Are you ready to reap the creative pass in the impasse?