Conflict, in an active, moving committee or team, happens. Most people do not like conflict, but at some point a team will find itself face to face with real conflict that could easily threaten the well-being and success of that team. While working in teams, conflicts will arise in which the members, in order to remain effective, will need to possess the resources and knowledge to resolve. Types of Conflict Conflict is defined as competitive or opposing action of incompatibles, as divergent ideas, interests or persons; a mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands (Yahoo Reference).
In a team setting, conflicts arise when two or more team members disagree and cannot come to a resolution. Opinions, beliefs and culture are an ever-present influence and can sometimes be seen as a threat to a team. Another type of conflict that team members can experience is personal conflict that develops due to differences in personalities, learning styles, learning environments and time pressures (Ford, 2001). One specific example of the type of conflicts mentioned above is experienced by University of Phoenix students and can be attested to by the Team writing this paper. We are set in a new type of learning environment (cyber class); we have found that our learning styles vary to some degree. We have also found that the time-zone constraint can cause its own type of conflict.
People have vastly different schedules with different influences determining these schedules - children, occupation and even living situations. This (GEN 300) class that we are taking is a type of training and preparation to function in this environment and work through these types of conflict. Resentment is another type of conflict. Resentment is a deep, reflective displeasure against the conduct of the offender.
It can occur when members cannot agree on a certain issue such as the direction of the team; when certain members feel they are doing all of the work, while the other members reap the same rewards. Resentment can be detrimental to the team by consuming the team members. Without proper leadership and communication, the team's demise could be imminent (Ford, 2001). Causes of Conflict Causes of conflict can vary. Those causes that we are going to discuss include the lack of leadership, no rules, time constraints, personality differences and the lack of understanding of those personalities and individual styles. Lack of leadership allows an anarchical approach to a democratic method.
This does not mean that the team requires someone to wear the "hat" and drive the meetings. It does mean the team needs someone to facilitate or manage the project. As you can see, this could be every team member. However, someone must take the responsibility to keep the discussions on track, and keep the goal of the team in focus.
Another important aspect of this role is to keep members in check with each other. A team can quickly fall apart when members start digging at each other and their opinions, and someone needs to keep this activity to a minimum. A charter can help alleviate a lot of the problems that conflict can create. Charters, if written by the team and agreed to by the team, provide a road map of sorts for the team. Rules are agreed upon; guidelines for participation are outlined. The purpose of the team is laid out up front and enables the team to stay on course towards their defined goal.
Conflict often happens because team members get frustrated when they feel they are just going through the motions of another team or committee with no sure purpose in mind. Members will begin to disrespect the team by skipping meeting, coming late or dropping completely from the team membership. Conflict can arise due to personality conflicts. A lot of people are not sensitive to the various types of personalities and learning styles that exist. Some people are introverts, while others are extroverts. Some people like to talk, while others like to listen.
Learning styles can present the same type of conflict. Some people want all of the information before making decisions (Grouper), while others only want to hit the highlights and gather more details later (Stringer). One group will feel everything is moving way too fast, while the other feels the snail pace is going drive them mad. We have briefly discussed a few of the causes of conflict. Now we will discuss some of the ways to deal with that conflict. Dealing with Conflict Team Training Sessions Before even beginning work as a team, all members should be given the occasion for training opportunities that would make each a more vital and valuable participant.
Such training sessions could include: Conflict Resolution Training, Interpersonal Communication Training, Five Stages of Teams Model Training, Facilitator Training and a training course on Individual Learning and Personality Styles. Firstly, we will discuss conflict resolution training. The main point of this training is to teach members and / or facilitators how to resolve conflict to the point of consensus. This training will help members understand that you don't have to agree to move on (Ford, 2001). Discussion of opinions allows members to hear all "sides". Realizing that just because you disagree with me doesn't mean you are wrong can mean the difference in moving forward or bogging down the entire team.
Conflict resolution training is available in various types of media from video to instructor lecture. The Internet and phone book offer many resources for this training. Secondly, Interpersonal Communications Training is a subject that everyone, team member or not, should receive. One of the paradoxes of the 21st Century is that we are able to communicate like never before - we have 24-hour news, e-mail spam, internet chat, and cell phones everywhere. Still, the quality of our communication seems to be diminishing - we write fewer long letters, we rarely sit down to dinner with the family, we have fewer face-to-face encounters, and we take less time to hold meaningful conversations. As the efficiency of our communication increases, it becomes less interpersonal.
This problem carries over into our team settings. One way of defining interpersonal communication is to compare it to other forms of communication. In so doing, we would examine how many people are involved, how physically close they are to one another, how many sensory channels are used, and the feedback provided. Interpersonal communication differs from other forms of communication in that there are few participants involved, they are in close physical proximity to each other, there are many sensory channels used, and feedback is immediate (Goran, 1994).
Interpersonal communication training allows one to learn to listen to and feel what the other person is about without passing judgment. A critical skill for all people (whether team members or family members). Thirdly, the team should receive training on the Five Stages of Team Models (Thompson, n. d.) as outlined in the textbook, "Tools for Teams". Understanding the natural progression of a team would help in such a way as to allow the team members to identify the stage they are approaching. The team, if struggling to move on for example, could review the stages and see where they are in the life cycle of their team. With this identification, they could readjust as necessary to allow the momentum to carry them forward toward their established goal.
This training is just another tool to make the team a well-oiled, educated machine. Fourthly, facilitator training teaches individuals to keep their team focused, capture ideas that appear during discussions and to keep the discussions flowing. Facilitator training almost always involves some sort of conflict resolution training also. Facilitators are trained to deal with the different styles mentioned above in the resentment paragraph and encourage compromise if not consensus of all team members. We believe all members should receive some sort of facilitator training, so there is always someone available with the knowledge to fill this important role. Lastly, all team members should have some sort of training exercise where they learn their own personality style, learning style and leadership style.
In this training, you are exposed to all of the different types that you may encounter. This knowledge allows team members to realize how they view information, but more importantly, how their team mates may also view and receive information. This allows more understanding, and consensus is much easier to reach with that understanding! Development of Team Rules We discussed this briefly before, but this is a tool for dealing with conflict that needs to be mentioned again.
Charters and rules are a team's top defense against conflict. Yes, there will always be conflict of some sort at some time or another; however, the rules set forth and agreed to by THE TEAM are a sort of safety net or security blanket. All members have agreed to them, and all members should feel protected by them. When conflict does arise, this charter prevents any "surprises" for how the conflict will be handled. A simple rule such as "no name calling" can be pointed out and diffuse a potentially serious conflict. That team member may be breaking his own rule, and with this realization will more than likely back off without the entire team or the facilitator having to take action.
All teams, no matter how small, should have some sort of rules to govern and prevent conflict. Learning to Compromise From personal experience it can be said that sometimes all a team needs is discussion and getting everything "out on the table" to begin conflict resolution. As each member voices his / her opinion, the other team members are allowed to process this information and develop a plausible solution. That solution can be a compromise where everyone agrees with a revised solution; or it can be a consensus where, although one member may disagree, the majority agrees. With the consensus or the compromise, the disagreeing members agree to publicly support the decision of their team thereby providing continuity to the team.
Conclusion Effective teams possess effective methods. Methods to identify the many types of conflict and how these conflicts may arise. Conflicts such as disagreements, time differences and constraints, resentments and different personality and learning styles are just some of the obstacles a team or committee may encounter. The cause of these types of conflicts should be identifiable, but more than that they should be avoidable. Problems involving the lack of leadership, lack of rules, and lack of understanding of different personalities and learning styles and time constraints can be avoided with the proper training.
Training to deal with these types of conflict can include conflict resolution training, interpersonal communication training, team model training, facilitator training and training to identify one's own learning styles and personalities while gaining understanding for other styles. This training can provide a team with valuable tools and methods to achieve their goals. With these tools in hand, the development of charters and rules, a team is armed for success. A team member's commitment to the team and the team mission decreases if conflict goes unresolved, but can increase if conflict is well-managed and resolved. If unhealthy conflict goes unresolved for too long, team members are likely to quit or to search for alternatives. Conflict resolution is a healthy tool for a group and is only a conversation away.
In the words of Joseph Joubert (1754-1824), "The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress". Conflict Resolution in Teams
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