4 Tips for Dealing with Conflict on Teams

Most work teams experience conflict, but few team members know how to respond appropriately. Dr. Eunice Parisi-Carew, who recently presented on the topic of Why Teams Fail—Dealing with Friction and Dissension recommends that teams address conflict head-on and look at it as an opportunity to be creative and innovative instead of something to avoid.

As a team leader this means seeing conflict as a natural part of the team development process and using conflict situations as a way to help your team grow.  Here are four common scenarios and some tips for getting started. 

–If two or three differing positions are being argued in the group without any progress toward agreement , stop the group and ask each member to take a turn talking with no interruption or debate. Have the rest of the group listen and try to understand the differing points of view and look for commonalities.

–If the team is struggling with trusting one another and people are not feeling heard, stop the process and ask each person what they need from others to feel effective in the group.

–If personality styles are causing problems consider using a DISC, MBTI, or other behavioral assessment to help people understand each other better and learn to work together. These assessments can provide insight into your own style but more importantly, they help team members understand what the other person needs.

–Conflict that involves power issues, or strong personal agendas, must be dealt with differently. The reality is some people just do not fit on a team and you need to be willing to remove them–or offer them another role. This should only be an option when other attempts to work with the person have failed.

In all cases, the main thing is to embrace conflict. Dissension is a natural and healthy part of team development. To learn more about Parisi-Carew’s approach to team development, be sure to check out the on-demand recording of her presentation on Why Teams Fail—Dealing with Friction and Dissension.

5 thoughts on “4 Tips for Dealing with Conflict on Teams

  1. Interesting read; those are great tips. Not disagreeing with “embrace” but in order to avoid losing excess time and money to learn “how” people will disagree, embracing conflict should be done via technology rather than trial and error. It needs to be deeper than DISC assessments, which stop at performance styles and do not provide the full picture. Managers need to know what the conflicting team members care about most in order to communicate most effectively and defuse the conflict, so the whole team can move on.

    By glancing at the entire team’s performance styles and ambitions on one dashboard, the manager can visually anticipate “how” teams are most likely to clash and then customize how they communicate to solve team conflicts faster. This results in better, more productive teams.

  2. Very practical approach, I love that. Many leaders shy away from conflict (often as a direct result of their own personality type), yet conflict can be a powerful and constructive force. Even in personal relationships, handling conflict in a positive manner often takes the relationship to the ‘next level’. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. Good article! Recently, I was in a situation where conflict occurred and management tried to ignore the problem rather than try to reconcile the problem. When taking the opportunity to talk to those involved, I discovered one side was more upset that their issues seemed to be ignored or was unimportant, causing a smaller problem to erupt into a bigger and more confrontational problem. I believe most of the problems could have been helped by simply, “stop[ing] the process and ask each person what they need from others to feel effective in the group.”

    Thanks for this post.

  4. Pingback: Managing Diversity | culcnganansk

Leave a Reply