Team Dynamics and Conflict Resolution Abstract Teams are now a common part of today's workforce. They are advantageous for the productivity and morale of the individual employees. Yet with all groups come conflicts. Knowing how to handle a group conflict effectively and still work together is an integral part of a successful team. This paper will take a look at what a team is and the origins of teams. It will then transition to the processes involved in creating a team and then move to advantages and disadvantages of team.
Finally, this paper will discuss conflicts in a team and how to resolve them efficiently. Team Dynamics and Conflict Resolution in Work Teams For companies to remain competitive in today's economy, they need to look at their processes with a renewed vigor. Companies must become more creative, maintain higher morale, and become more efficient. Companies are learning that they can accomplish all the above by getting away from individual efforts and moving toward teams. For the next four points we will be discussing team building in the workforce, the process behind a team, advantages and disadvantages, and finally identifying and resolving conflicts. To begin with, we need to establish the difference between a group and a team.
According to Wisdom of Teens, Jon R. Katzenbach defines a group that has "no significant incremental performance need or opportunity". An example of a group would be a few co-workers placed together by management to come up with an ad campaign that is to be distributed amongst other employees. The co-workers belonging to the group does not work independently and they most likely come up with their ideas while together. Each person of the group does not work interdependently and individual co-workers are not independently accountable for specific tasks.
A team is defined as "a small number of people with complementary skills who are equally committed to a common purpose, goals, and working approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable". A baseball team is a great example of true teamwork. Each individual has his or her own job and it must be accomplished effectively in order for the team to win as a whole. The individual can be held accountable for his contributions. Teams were introduced to the US by Japan. Japanese manufacturing plants were very successful during the 1950's and the US thought that this was a result of the "effective use of small groups".
(Lippman-Blumen 1999). Teams were initially introduced to manufacturing plants. The introduction proved to have mixed results. Soon, the US team project took on a new direction when it started to incorporate research of teamwork that was performed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the late 1940's and 50's. In the 1960's a prominent company named Procter and Gamble started utilizing teams in their work force. At this time, teams were still relatively new and unknown.
P&G found this type of work atmosphere to be successful and saw that it had a "significant competitive advantage" (Stewart 1999.) P&G soon had its employees signing nondisclosure agreements because they viewed their work environment as confidential. With the company so successful, other companies starting poaching current employees of P&G and convinced them to bring their knowledge and experience with them to a new position at a new firm. As a result, the knowledge of teams began to spread. At According to Bolman-Deal (n. d.) Teams are now an integral part of the American workforce. Yet not all teams perform as anticipated. When a group is not given a clear purpose, they tend to fail.
The process involved in selecting the team is important. Bolman-Deal (1992) states that teams that are given "clear goals, open communication, shared leadership, and a comfortable, informal atmosphere". are teams proven to succeed. You cannot just through a group of people together and expect them to become a team overnight. There are several phases that a group will go through before they become a team. These phases have been grouped into five stages that include forming, storming, nor ming, performing, and adjourning.
Each stage has unique characteristics that set it apart from the other stages. Forming is the first stage and / or process of team development where individuals come together to create a learning or work team. During this initial stage, team members will get to know each other though expression of ideas, personalities, ideas and a mutual goal. There are usually feelings if timidity as everyone tries to figure out which role they should play and which tasks need to be accomplished. Once individuals have had a chance to get to know each other, the next phase that a group will go through is referred to as nor ming.
This is the process in which team members begin to experience anger and frustration over their debate as to which direction the group should take. Anger over leadership and individual workload begins to materialize. It is typical to have complete disarray during this phase of team development and very little work towards the end goal has been accomplished. During this stage, it is best for a team member to "not take sides" and to "develop communication channels. (Manz 1999.) The third phase that a team will pass through is nor ming. Rules and guidelines are established and members can now get a feel that a team is in place.
Personal conflicts are avoided and the task at hand becomes the main focus. Performing is the fourth phase of team development. Team members have finally reached a point where they can feel that efforts are starting to pay off. This is the stage where the team performs work in harmony and thesaurus to obtain the predetermined tasks and goals. Individual personalities are more known throughout the group and team members are now on the same page with the same ideas and goals. Some other examples of performing include a higher productivity as a unit versus individually, a larger level of commitment and self-discipline.
The final phase of team development is adjourning. This is a stage or process where the team is dispersed and moves on to other objectives. The anticipated goal of this phase is to complete all objectives and take lessons learned with you to your next team. During this stage, teams should be recognized and rewarded for their hard work. This can help ensure that individuals stay motivated and assist in the overall success and growth of team building in the workforce. Companies in today's workforce are migrating towards working in team environments.
This process tends to have a high success rate with better overall outcomes of the companies success. Although there are several advantages of working in team environments, there are also disadvantages, which need to be overcome. We will be discussing the advantages as well as disadvantage below beginning with the advantages of working in team environments. One of the greatest advantages to having a team environment is being able to utilize the strongest skill sets of each individual team members and putting them into one group. This allows the group to utilize everyone's personal strengths. By bringing out the strengths in every team member, it allows for a learning environment where others may further enhance their own knowledge.
By all team members using their strengths, it allows for the individuals to focus in greater depth on their individual tasks, therefore getting more productivity out of everyone in the team. In addition, the team is more excited about their tasks because they are able to capitalize on their own strength, thus making for a better work environment. By working in a team environment we can utilize everyone's knowledge and create the best outcome for the team. Deborah Harrington-Mackin, author of, "The team building tool kit: tips, tactics, and rules for effective workplace teams" lists more advantages to team environments, such as: . Highly motivated environment; better work climate. Shared ownership and responsibility for tasks.
Fewer, simpler job classifications. Effective delegation of workload; increased flexibility in task assignments. Common commitment to goals; innovative and effective problem solving. Improved self-worth. Increased communication Better decisions These advantages are part of the reasons why companies are becoming more efficient and will keep their success moving forward, with the positive attributes of team environments. The advantage of team environments is strong and very encouraging, but with advantage always come some disadvantages, which must be overcome.
Individuals with a variety of personalities have a set of challenges that can be difficult. For example, some individuals like to be in charge, and have a hard time relinquishing any of the work to others in the group. In order to be effective, there needs to be a set of norms that "everyone" in the team must agree to. Each member needs to be held accountable for his or her own tasks, however, giving up control forces people to change the way the think. There are certainly disadvantages to being in a team, but with so many obvious benefits, stated above; it would seem that the team environment would inevitably be the direction that companies would want to go. According to Arthur R. Pell, PH.
D, Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Team Building... ". The trend toward team development in organizations in every industry and in most developed countries has proliferated over the past decades. Research at the Center for the Study of Work Teams at the University of North Texas indicates that as we enter the twenty-first century, 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies will have half their employees on teams".
(Introduction). This is significant evidence that many large companies across the world see team as a benefit. I suspect that over the course of time, we will see the number of companies increase because of all the benefits there are to gain. As we move from the dynamics and positive aspects of a team we will discuss the identification and ultimate resolution of conflicts within the team that can and will arise. While the value of a team has been rationalized and proven, one of the most driving results and undeniable downfalls is the ability for members to identify and resolve the conflicts, which are sure to evolve. In the following paragraphs we will discuss the identification, necessity and resolution of these inescapable conflicts.
The first aspect of conflict resolution is awareness and validation of a potentially undermining conflict. One of the most important views of conflict awareness is the very necessity for conflicts within a team. Conflicts by nature have the ability to be constructive or destructive; ultimately the results are based on the participants' perceptions and attitudes. These perceptions and attitudes can be generally classed into five major styles: 1) avoidance, 2) accommodation, 3) competition, 4) compromise, and 5) collaboration, each of which is discussed in length by Engleberg, Wynn, and Schuttler (2003). The understanding of these styles and characteristics help immensely in the identification and potential resolution paths for dealing with conflict as it arises.
The other aspect of identifying conflict is the awareness of the diversity of the members who may comprise the team. There are numerous cultural values, expectations and personalities which factor into the overall attitude of the team as well as the preceding aspects. All of these combined factors comprise the fabric of a team and as with any piece of fabric a tear must be mended as quickly as possible in order to avoid total loss. This leads us to the topic of resolution of any incurred conflicts.
With the tools of understanding the characteristics and classifiable actions of the members on the team we can then begin to formulate a methodology of resolving any conflicts which act to undermine the overall success of the team and its assigned duty. One of the major disciplines, which address the process of conflict resolution, is the 4 Rs methodology (Engelberg et al., 2003), which consists of: SS Reasons. Identifying the reasons for the conflict. Procedural, personality, attitude or something akin to the preceding. SS Reactions. Are the group member's reactions unbiased in nature and if not are the consequences constructive or destructive.
SS Results. If left unattended will the consequences undermine the overall success of the team as a whole. SS Resolution. What methods are applicable in mediating and resolving the conflict?
This methodology helps equip a team to begin the reconciliation process in order to resolve any conflict that may ultimately undermine their success as a whole. There are many facets to this process, which can include the negotiation, mediation or arbitration of the conflict depending on the severity of the situation. For the most part many conflicts can, will and are resolved directly by those involved and if done with a modicum of respect and understanding can lead to the personal and professional growth of all and the undeniable success as a team. In conclusion, we have discussed the varied aspects of the building of, the process behind, the advantages / disadvantages of, and the identification and resolution of conflict within work teams.
We have discussed and proven that teams are by nature, are quite necessary and a productive by product of melding individuals with specific talents and skills into a single cohesive group for the good of the organization. Also shown were the personal and professional growth benefits of all involved in the success of the team as a whole. Teams are quite necessary and beneficial to entities today as the ever-changing landscape of global economics and competition deem an adaptation of traditional processes, which can produce more productivity than the competitors.
Katzenbach, J.R. & Smith, D.K. (1993).
The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-performance Organization. Boston: Harvard Business School. Lippman-Blumen Jean. (Spring 99). Hot Groups 'With Attitude': A New Organizational State of Mind. Vol 27 issue 4. Retrieved on June 19, 2004 from University of Phoenix Online library.
Stewart G., Manz C., & Sims H. (1999).
Teamwork and Group Dynamics. New York: Wiley. pp 1-16. Bolman-Deal. (Autumn 1992).
What Makes a Team Work? Unit 3, Team Processes: Developing Synergistic Team Relations, Team Processes at the Fitzgerald Battery Plant, Pages 83-88, University of Phoenix Online, Harrington-Mackin, Deborah (1994).
The team building tool kit: tips, tactics, and rules for effective workplace teams. p. 2-3 Arthur R. Pell, PH. D, Author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Team Building (introduction) Engleberg, I., Wynn, D., & Schuttler, R. (2003).