How Conflicts affects Teams

How Conflicts affect Teams

Leaders often fear that conflicts can erupt within their teams.  Sometimes, when team members can’t deal with conflicts properly, they can be destructive to the dynamic of the teams.  The reality is, that conflicts are a part of working with teams.  So, they are inevitable, meaning they are also completely acceptable.

At its worst, conflicts can affect the team’s performance, and in some cases can even break up a team.  Some conflicts end up taking a turn for the worse, with team members attacking each other on a personal level.  However, when they are handled well, they can end up motivating team members to become more creative and produce higher quality output.

How do conflicts start and what can teams do to solve them?  Learning about the types of conflict that can arise and what to do to resolve them, as well as finding out about managing team relationships, will definitely help you to become an effective leader.

Let’s explore in more details.


Types of conflict

The way to resolve conflicts depends on what kind of conflict arises in the first place.  There are different types you need to learn about and they will determine what you can and should do in order to fix everything.

The first type of conflict is the one that’s about tasks.  Sometimes team members disagree on things that need to get done and items that need to have higher importance than others.  It can be something simple like the urgency of a task or something weighty like which products need to be promoted.

Another type of conflict comes from the understanding of team processes.  Some people get confused about what is expected of them in their position.  Not everyone is willing to go out of their way to do jobs that they’re not supposed to do, while some remain firm about the things they won’t do. This can create tension brought about by different expectations.

The third type of conflict is rooted in interpersonal relationships.  This can mean either professional or personal relationships between team members.  Every individual has a unique personality, and it won’t always gel well with the personalities of other team members.  Sometimes these people can clash.  Judgments will be made, and words will be said.  It won’t always end well.


Causes of conflicts

There are two main reasons why conflicts arise in the office.  These causes create very different conflicts, and they also affect team members in different way.  One may be heavier than the other, depending on how a person reacts to it.  Either way, the causes of conflict will help determine how they can be approached.

The first cause of conflict is organizational. This includes work roles as well as organizational factors. Sometimes, team members don’t have a mutual understanding of their roles and expectations. This can lead to confusion about who does what and whether others are contributing to the team as much as others are.

A lack of a shared vision and clear goals can also cause team conflicts. This could be because team members don’t have the same objectives, which can lead to competition.  Some may want to work at a faster or more innovative pace than others, and those who don’t want to may feel like they’re being put in a bad light.

Another organizational cause of conflict is one brought about by a lack of resources. This is especially frustrating to team members because they won’t be able to perform well, if they don’t have the proper infrastructure to execute their tasks.  This can even boil over and result in other kinds of conflicts.

Other causes include overlapping authority among leaders and project heads, task interdependence in some projects, and incompatible evaluation systems.  These organizational causes all arise from a lack of clarity and understanding among team members.

The second cause of conflict is interpersonal.  Personalities of team members play a significant role in team dynamics. Some can be more leader-like, creative or assertive than others. Therefore, when one personality is stronger than the rest, it can cause some friction within the team.

In addition, different working styles among team members can also be a cause of disagreement.  Since every member’s approach to the team’s task is unique and very individual, it can sometimes affect other members’ work flow, and the entire team might need to overcome it together to prevent future clashes.


How to resolve team conflicts

Some ways are more effective than others.  Avoiding it altogether and compromising will not work, because it can result in team members harboring ill feelings towards one another.  The best way to start resolving conflicts is by collaborating with team members.

To begin with, you need to separate the problem from the persons.  Why is this necessary?  It is necessary because conflicts arise less because of a person, but more because of the situation people find themselves in.  It is always better to conquer the problem itself as opposed to being tough on the people.

Second, you need to concentrate on the interests of the persons involved rather than focusing on their positions.  If there is a way to get opposing parties to get what they both need by finding out what their interests are, then choose this way.

The third way to resolve conflicts is to find a solution that offers mutual gain for opposing parties. You might be able to find solutions that are favorable to what they are both after, and even exceed what they need while you’re at it.  They might have underlying needs that you need to learn about, and they might be able to come up with creative solutions themselves.

Sometimes, it is easier for the opposing team members to sort things out on their own.  A leader interfering with their issue can make things worse.  So, whenever possible, try to keep a good distance from both parties, and only step in when necessary.  Encourage them to speak their minds and let them take their own time to air out their frustrations.

If there are conflicts that can’t be resolved among team members without the leader intervening, then mediation might be necessary. Go through the facts of the matter as well as the feelings of the team members involved.  Then come up with a solution together.

After discussing with the concerned parties, talk about setting goals with them in order to avoid similar conflicts within the team in the future.  Lastly, agree on action plans, so that this conflict is completely resolved and will have no more chances to arise in the future.