Successful Team Conflict Management Strategies

Conflict management takes effort, but, if you're able to follow a few team conflict management strategies like sticking to the facts and keeping everyone focused on solutions, the effort will make the team stronger.

Conflict in Teams
Businesses use teams to leverage the combined skills, knowledge and experience of employees with differing backgrounds to achieve specific goals. But these differences among team members can also lead to conflict as people struggle to find their place on the team or project. Team conflict is generally easy to identify, but there are instances when work is getting done and conflict is brewing beneath the surface.

Signs of team conflict include:

  • Name calling
  • Gossiping
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Complaining
  • Anger
  • Not sharing information
  • Lack of results
  • Missed deadlines

Train Your Team to Identify Conflict
One method of dealing with conflict in teams is to train team members and leaders about how to deal with conflict before the teams starts to work together. Team members need to learn how to listen to each other effectively without getting emotionally involved and deal with deal with opposing viewpoints.

A few ways you can train your team to manage conflicts within the group are:

  • Brainstorming on current results, ideas or proposals under consideration
  • Group problem-solving sessions
  • Teaching them to identify how and why the conflict occurred in an effort to avoid the same situation in the future

Good listening skills are critical to a well-functioning team and listening goes beyond just hearing the words other team members are speaking. Good team members also pay attention to the speaker's tone of voice and are aware of his or her body language, both of indicate the speaker's level of commitment to the team and any concerns they may have.

When it comes to conflict, good listening skills are only effective if team members truly understand the issue on the table. Some conflicts are nothing more than simple misunderstandings or the result of poor communication. Training team members to express their understanding of what the conflict is helps them evaluate their own position on the matter as well the positions of other team members. Acknowledging another team member's viewpoint is another method by telling them what you heard them say using statements like, "So, you are saying that…" can help clear up misunderstandings before they turn into conflict.

If the situation at hand proves to be a conflict and not a simple case of misunderstanding, team members should be encouraged to go beyond expressing disagreement. Responding to any conflict effectively involved offering alternatives and compromises in a positive way. The shortest path to conflict resolution is focusing on generating additional ideas and solutions, not defending individual positions.

Team Conflict Resolution
Part of your role as a manager is helping your team navigate through conflict by keeping them on track and focused on practical solutions in a respectful environment. Your objective is to handle conflict constructively by directing attention away from individual personalities, values and emotions and toward the ideas, issues or processes that are up for discussion.

First, you have to help define what the issue is, in spite of the natural desire to resolve the conflict immediately. All team members, including you, need to agree on what the problem is before a solution can be found. Try having each team member state what they think the problem is and then choose one statement that most closely defines the problem. Next, break the problem down into smaller pieces for further discussion.

Work with your team to gather facts and other information that relate to each part of the problem. Limit the conversation to measurable facts, steering away from opinion or conjecture whenever possible.

Approaching the conflict in this way will also illuminate any patterns that can be applied to resolving the conflict. It may also identify areas that need to be redefined or reframed before you can hit upon the best solution. Keep track of which areas are approaching resolution and which areas require additional thought and effort.

Finally, you and your team will begin to find the best solution to the problem and learn to apply skills that will prevent additional conflicts before they happen. Your objective always is to reach a group consensus for resolution and use the former conflict as a means to build the team up rather than tear it down.

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