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Conflict Resolution Strategies in Team Dynamics

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Conflict Resolution Strategies in Team Dynamics

Conflict Resolution Strategies in Team Dynamics

University Of Phoenix

GEN300H Skills For Professional Development

Conflict Resolution Strategies in Team Dynamics

Team conflict is a natural dynamic that exists in any organization, group, or gathering. It is unavoidable working in a team environment. Yet there are proven strategies available to build upon positive conflict, and lessen the consequences of negative conflict. Understanding conflict and its potentials and downfalls is the responsibility of each team member to ensure the assigned project is completed accurately, on time, and within budget.

Most people think of conflict and its negative impact on both the team and assigned project. Patience, logic and clear thinking give way to rage, agony, and frustration. When team members disagree, the results could be explosive. However, good teams that have synergy respect each other's experience and talent. It is challenging working with people from different background, cultures and beliefs. Sandy Porkas, President of Viability Group Inc, states "To oil the wells of a team, you need to understand, get along with, and respect your teammates. Good team members cover for and support each other without being asked." (2002, ¶ 1).

To help ensure a team stays focused and to prevent common misunderstandings, a team charter is usually established. The team charter consists of important elements such as ground rules, contact information, established skill sets, and team goals. The charter is a quasi contract ensuring the team's project stays on track, on time, and within budget. The team charter itself will not prevent conflicts, but act as a guide to keep the team focused in the right direction. Charters are useful because as conflict arises, the team can refer to them for guidance. The charter should also contain objective guidelines that remove the team leader from the role of disciplinarian. "The drafting of a team charter early in the life of a team clarifies the goal and operating principles to guide the actions of members. The goal should be clearly stated to ensure all members know their objective. A team member cannot help to achieve a goal that is not well articulated or understood. In addition, this keeps all members "on the same sheet of music" and pulling in the same direction." (Buhler, 2007, ¶ 9).

Conflict is unavoidable and avoiding it is not the goal. A realistic solution is to have team members work through their conflicts and disagreements. Part of a team manager's function is to assemble a team whose members have the skill set necessary to complete the team's objective. However, often lacking is training in working with team dynamics. Everyone in the team should attend conflict resolution and communications training, preferably together. "In order for a team to be successful, it is essential that members know the basics of conflict resolution, delegation, and consensus building." (Convey, 1994, p. 13). What should also be considered is the perspective in the level and style used to defuse heated conflicts. Kathryn Jablokow, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the Pennsylvania State University, states "Sorting out level and style isn't always easy, because a person may be using coping behavior to perform in ways that differ from his or her preferred style. But with a bit of sound education and lots of practice, people can learn to spot and appreciate the difference—leading to more effective collaboration among problem solvers and better performance of problem solving teams overall." (2007, ¶ 16).

Negative conflict is called affective conflict (A-type conflict); Positive conflict is called cognitive conflict (C-conflict). The results of A-conflict are well known: animosity between team members, heated arguments, mistrust, and unfinished projects. A-conflict provides all the unwanted elements destined to a team's failure. C-Conflict results are the polar opposite of A-conflict: It provides an avenue of expression between team members to compare and resolve their differences. The common theme between A and C type conflict is the amount of communication each type contains. "Increased creativity came from listening to all viewpoints and asking for minority opinions. Open communication was critical to the successful management of C-conflicts. It allowed team members to challenge ideas and to speak freely, without fear of retribution, anger, or resentment. In this way, all team members were included and everyone's ideas were integrated into the group's ideas and decisions." (Jordan, 1996, ¶ 5).

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