Conflict is defined as the belief that if you get what you want, I can’t get what I want. Conflict occurs primarily for one of two reasons: 1) different interests or 2) the same interests, which are in conflict.
Conflict in Teams is Inevitable
Work issues and personality differences guarantee that almost any team will experience at least occasional friction. However, a team can make a choice between conflict that is destructive or conflict that is healthy and leads to growth and innovation. The goal is a win-win situation based on common team goals.
Teams that both manage and resolve conflict will benefit and see increases in productivity. Conflict is constructive when it:
- Leads to unity of purpose and collaboration
- Leads to better decision making
- Produces necessary change
An apparent absence of conflict may be a sign that a team is functioning ineffectively. It is essential that the team and the team leader be comfortable with conflict.
- Constructive conflict indicates that the team is engaged
- Challenging positions and ideas prevents the team from having dominant members push through their ideas
- Many team leaders fear conflict and squelch it before needed ideas surface
Five Styles of Handling Conflict
- Competing – Win-at-all-costs attitude
- Accommodating – Yielding completely to others
- Avoiding – Withdrawing from confrontational situations
- Compromising – Striving to meet a mutually acceptable solution
- Consensus – The highest cause common to both parties wins
Regardless of what style(s) are used to address conflict there are some basic preconditions to successful resolution. They are:
- Concern for mutual gains and understanding that helping others meet their interests can help you meet yours
- Creativity and always having a Plan B in mind;
- Being flexible on solutions and firm on interests
- Separating people from the problem
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A., Human Resource Development