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5 Methods to Preempt Team Conflict

There is equilibrium in the team conflict spectrum. A little conflict can produce great, innovative results, but bad conflict can result in all-out anarchy. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Ginka Toegel and Jean-Louis Barsoux discuss how taking a proactive stance with team conflict often inspires the best outcomes.

So Many Conflicts

The best medicine is preventative medicine. Supervisors should set aside some time for teams to be encouraged to communicate with one another. This can help to build the foundation of trust needed for productive collaborative work. The authors have additionally found that managers seem to learn skills for conflict prevention better than those for conflict resolution.

When plotting conflict conversation, ensure that everyone is included, and focus the discussion on how the conversation will be about the process of work, not the content. Everyone should feel comfortable in this meeting and encouraged to share their ideas and opinions at their own pace. Many people may be hesitant at first, but as the facilitator of this meeting, you can alleviate some of the stress by kicking off the meeting with your own perspectives. There are five categories to keep in mind over the duration of the conversation:

  1. Look
  2. Act
  3. Speak
  4. Think
  5. Feel

People often base their opinions of their peers based on the minute details of how they present themselves. These perceptions can often be misleading because they are made rashly, and they are often context-sensitive. For instance, someone coming from a banking background who is used to wearing a shirt and tie every day might come across as unintentionally haughty wearing the same thing in a casual marketing environment. Weed out these biases and discrepancies so that people do not develop the wrong impressions of each other.

In a mix of people it is common to have a variety of perceptions regarding behavioral norms. These often conflict with one another and cause tension, for example, the idea of personal space. People have different ideas about what is appropriate and what behaviors they are comfortable with. Other quiet discrepancies that can fester into large problems are differing ideas of how assertive people should act, or how crucial punctuality is.

Everyone communicates differently, and consequently this can cause an array of conflicts and misunderstandings. For instance, one person saying “definitely” could actually just be that person’s way of saying “I really hope this is the case,” and the people who work with that person need to know that. At the organizational level, a company culture of positivity might inadvertently discourage employees from voicing valid concerns. If the team takes some time to establish what communication styles are appropriate for their situation, they will have guidelines to follow that will help to guide future interactions.

According to the authors, one of the biggest sources of conflicts amongst teams is how each member thinks about the work they are doing, particularly between the analytical minds compared to the Action Jacksons. One business worked through this conflict by giving its more creative minds control during project conception phases and then shifting control to analytical types for implementation.

Team members convey feelings in myriad ways, which can elicit myriad reactions. Too much enthusiasm for an idea from one person might cause another person to become skeptical of the idea, for instance. How to share negative feelings also requires tact and specialized knowledge of how people are used to communicating.

Having early chats about team behaviors like the above can help to prevent future team resentment. Collaborative work fosters creativity and innovation, and it is invaluable to keep the team cohesive as possible.

You can read the original article here: https://hbr.org/2016/06/how-to-preempt-team-conflict

About Danielle Koehler

Danielle is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. She has degrees in English and human resource management from Shippensburg University.

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