Conflict within a team is an inevitable part of any work environment. The diverse perspectives, ideas, and solutions that team members bring to the table can often lead to disagreements and conflicts. However, it’s important to remember that team conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be beneficial in many ways. It can help identify blind spots, explore different solutions, and find innovative ways to deliver on objectives. The key lies in managing these conflicts effectively.
Effective conflict management can lead to a more engaged team, improved performance, and overall growth. In this article, we will outline how to manage team conflict. We will delve into five key tactics: finding the root cause of the conflict, defining acceptable criteria, questioning assumptions, examining the impact of each solution, and switching perspectives to understand opposing viewpoints.
Find the Root Cause
Team Conflicts often arise from differing ideas about the best solution to a problem. Therefore, the first step in managing team conflict is to examine the problem and agree on its root cause. This involves finding common ground around how the team found itself in the current situation. It’s crucial to understand that before discussing solutions, the team must agree on what the problem is.
There are several techniques that can be used to analyze the root cause of a conflict. These include fishbone diagrams or the five whys method. These techniques can help the team to dig deeper into the problem and identify the underlying cause. Once the root cause is identified, it becomes easier to address the conflict and find a solution.
Define Acceptable Criteria
Once the root cause of team conflict has been identified, the next step is to set criteria for success before discussing solutions. This involves agreeing on the criteria that will define a successful solution. It’s important to discuss constraints such as time, cost, and responsibility. These factors often play a significant role in determining the feasibility of a solution.
It’s worth noting that disagreements about criteria can lead to conflict. Therefore, it’s important to define these upfront. By setting clear criteria, the team can ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the proposed solutions align with the agreed-upon success criteria.
Another important tactic in managing team conflict is to question assumptions. This involves gaining a deeper understanding and finding common ground by questioning assumptions about the world, individual capacities, and team capabilities. It’s crucial to avoid criticizing or dismissing ideas outright. Instead, ask for thoughts on specific aspects and encourage open discussion.
By questioning assumptions, people may rethink their solutions or discover flaws in their own thinking. This can lead to more innovative solutions and a better understanding of the problem at hand. It also fosters a culture of open communication and mutual respect within the team.
Examine the Impact
When considering potential solutions to a team conflict, it’s important to examine the impact of each solution. This involves exploring the potential consequences and trade-offs of implementing a particular solution. Consider the impact on other divisions, clients, society, and the media. Recognizing that every solution has trade-offs and unintended consequences is a crucial part of the decision-making process.
Examining the impact helps people realize the potential flaws or benefits of their ideas. It also encourages team members to think critically about their proposed solutions and consider the bigger picture. This can lead to more informed decision-making and better conflict resolution.
The final tactic in managing team conflict is to switch perspectives. This involves considering opposing viewpoints and championing different ideas. Encourage team members to take on the perspective of others and understand their reasoning. This can help to gain empathy and find common ground.
By considering different viewpoints, a more suitable solution may be found, or a more productive conversation can take place. This not only helps in resolving the current conflict but also fosters a culture of empathy and understanding within the team, which can prevent future conflicts.
Managing conflict effectively is crucial for the growth and success of a team. It helps teams to grow, improve performance, and create a more engaging work experience. Managed well, conflict is what helps every member of the team do their best work ever.
About the author
David Burkus is an organizational psychologist, keynote speaker, and bestselling author of five books on leadership and teamwork.