Creating teams in the workplace is a great opportunity to bring together many creative and talented minds to attack a project together. Unfortunately, the downside to teams is that the very differences that help create a diverse, multi-faceted team can also lead to conflict. Good team conflict resolution is essential to preserving the efficiency of a working team; though there are many ways to approach team conflict resolution, there are some basic principles to keep in mind that can help manage conflicts effectively. Some important steps to consider when managing a team dispute are approaching the issue directly, discovering the root of the problem, giving all parties an equal chance to speak, and turning to outside mediation, if necessary.
Allowing disputes to fester generally will explode the problem farther. A team leader who approaches an issue directly can help nip a conflict in the bud, before it can grow to become a source of distraction and inefficiency. Starting an open conversation to resolve conflicts can be tricky; team members may feel attacked and become immediately defensive if the issue is not broached in an objective matter. It may help to establish an initial framework of direct conflict management when the team is first set up, so that team members are not shocked by the format when a problem arises.
In general, workplace conflicts come from miscommunication, personality differences, or issues with the structure of the team. Identifying the root of the problem can greatly assist team conflict resolution efforts, ensuring that resolution efforts are aimed at the correct problem. Dealing with communication problems, for instance, might include issues such as administrative inefficiency or a failure to receive, share, and properly interpret information between all team members. When a communication problem arises, it may be up to the whole team to come up with a procedural solution that will eliminate the issue by standardizing methods of communication. Team conflict resolution of communication problems will generally require different method of management than personality disputes, which usually involve teammates turning against one another, or structural issues, which usually involve team member issues with the way assignments are set up, managed, or divided.
One of the key steps to effective team conflict resolution is allowing all parties to speak their minds. While a team leader may find one side to have a far more convincing argument than the other, allowing both sides to speak can help deflate tension and make the parties involved in the dispute feel that they have had an opportunity to fully address the issue. Team leaders may also find that allowing all sides to speak can raise possible solutions or issues not yet considered, and can create a good source of compromise. In addition to listing complaints or issues, leaders may want to consider asking each party to suggest a potential solution to the problem, in order to get them thinking about the solution, instead of just the conflict.
In some cases, internal team conflict resolution may be unable to effectively solve problems. Lack of objectivity, serious personality disputes, or a paucity of potential solutions may raise the need for outside assistance. In these cases, it may be a good idea to consider outside mediation. Hiring a professional mediator, or asking a neutral manager from another internal department to sit in, can add a voice of objectivity into a volatile situation. An outside mediator may be able to see the issue more clearly, and may be able to suggest practical solutions that involved team members are too frustrated or angry to see.