Group conflict deters the group from achieving successes. Successful groups tend to have lower levels of conflict (Jehn & Mannix, 2001). Group conflict has a variety of causations. Conflicts among group members can be interpersonal, culturally related, or work-related (Hardin, 1999). Although there are differentiations in the types of conflicts that occur in groups, it is crucial to resolve conflict in order to ensure the success of the group.
The nature of conflict in teams
Conflict has an array of causations. Interpersonal conflicts can occur when individuals have personal differences. These differences may be related to different personalities, styles of achieving tasks and group-related processes. Forsyth (2010) explains group conflict in defining group conflict theory, which states “the struggle between groups to acquire resources inevitably leads to conflict” (p. 413). The inability to achieve the needed resources further amplifies already existing conflicts such as previous experiences and personality differences. Furthermore, this inability to achieve vital resources breeds competition. In work-related groups, individuals take on different roles. Despite their roles, there is an inevitable need to perform. This need will in turn influence the actions group members take. However, how this situation is handled will either resolve the conflict or amplify it.
Types of Conflict and how each manifests in a team
Lourdes, Martinez & Guerra (2006) identifies two main types of conflicts that affect groups. The first type of conflict is relational conflict. Relational conflict occurs between two or more people. Relational “conflict is negatively associated with employees’ affective reactions such as satisfaction and climate, and it reduces team effectiveness” (p. 202). Multiple underlying factors can cause relational conflict. Amongst these factors include the need to perform, interpersonal differences, and the organizational climate. In certain organizational climates, individuals may be competing against group members in order to achieve a desired goal (Hardin, 1999). Although competition can in some cases increase productivity, in groups working towards a specific task related outcome it has been shown to decrease productivity.
The second type of conflict commonly experienced in groups is task related conflicts. Individuals have different ideas on how tasks should be designated and completed. The inability to perceive each group member’s perspective and opinions directly increases the likelihood that task-related conflict will occur. Lourdes (et. al., 2006) expands on this in noting the detrimental effects of task-related conflicts in noting, “task conflict appears to be positively related to the quality of ideas and innovation, the increase of constructive debate, the affective acceptance of group decisions, and the prevention of groupthink” (p. 202).
Identify reasons why team members struggle with conflict
Multiple reasons can account as to why team members struggle with conflict. Often, when individuals are grouped into a team, they are vested in the activity. Whether the activity is educational or work-related, most team member want to achieve. Furthermore, the inability to achieve successes in the project has the ability to deter their future (Hardin, 1999). For example, the unsuccessful completion of a project may directly alter ones career path. As a result, many team members feel passionate on how to complete a project.
The passion individuals feel often results in strong opinions as to how tasks should be completed. However, it should be noted that not all group members may feel as passionate about the project as others. This is an important factor as individuals that are not committed to the organization, have lower levels of work-place satisfaction or are having interpersonal problems in their own lives may not be as committed as other team members (Lourdes et. al., 2006).
Describe how a team leader can manage conflict within the team
There are different ways that team leaders can choose to handle conflict. However, it should be noted that some ways of handling conflicts produce better outcomes than others. For example, the team leader may choose to ignore the conflict. Although this is one way of handling conflict, it usually produces worse outcomes for the group (Hardin, 1999). Clark (2010) addresses the first way of handling conflict is to admit it is occurring. Team leaders should have a discussion with their team members regarding the conflict. This will allow the team leader to determine the nature of the conflict. Furthermore, an open discussion will allow group members to determine how the conflict can be resolved. This is important as it allows the group to move forward in the successful completion of their task.
Team leaders should further try to identify the behavior that led to the conflict (Clark, 2010). The ability to identify what led to the conflict is crucial in deterring future conflicts within the group. After the team leader has addressed these issues, he or she should try to refocus the attention of the group to the task at hand. This is important as it further takes emphasis off the actual conflict and puts it back on what needs to be completed.
- Clark C. (2010) Group Leadership Skills 4th ed. New York: Pearsons.
- Forsyth D.R. (2010) Group Dynamics. New Jersey: Cengage.
- Hardin (1999) One for All: The Logic of Group Conflict. New Jersey: Princeton University
- Jehn K.A., Mannix E.A. (2001) The Dynamic Nature of Conflict: A Longitudinal Study of Intragroup Conflict and Group Performance. Journal of Academic Management 44 (2) 238-251.
- Lourdes F.J., Martinez I., Guerra J.M. (2006) Types of intragroup conflict affective reactions. Journal of Managerial Psychology 20 (3/4) 200-230.