Team Conflict is an interpersonal problem that occurs between two or more members of a team and affects the results of teamwork, so the team does not perform at optimum levels. Team conflicts are caused by the situation when the balance between perceptions, goals, or/and values of the team is upset, therefore people can no more work together and no shared goals can be achieved in the team environment.
Classification of employee conflicts is the foundation of effective team conflict management, because by having identified a type of conflicts, team leaders are able to choose right conflict resolving tools and apply appropriate conflict management strategies. In this context, let’s try to classify disagreements between team members.
By functional attribute
First of all, conflicts between team members can be functional and dysfunctional.
- Functional conflicts are disagreements that do not significantly affect team performance, so the team remains functional and is able to produce desired results.
- Dysfunctional conflicts are those disagreements between employees that disrupt teamwork and prevent team members from following shared goals, so the entire team becomes dysfunctional and no desired results can be produced.
The listed types of team conflict are defined considering the functional attribute of teams.
By Origin of Conflict
Another way to classify employee conflicts refers to focusing on the origin of conflicts or investigating how a conflict has evolved. Following this idea, the next sources of group conflicts are to be considered.
- Values of team members. Each team member has its own values yet he/she should follow the values of the team. When a disagreement between the values appears, a conflict may arise.
- Goals versus Expectations. Often improperly set goals do not relate to actual expectations, then a group conflict may take place.
- Roles and responsibilities. If the right people are not assigned to the right responsibilities and roles, an employee conflict is likely to arise.
- Lack of resources. Every team has to work using limited resources – this situation increases the risk of group conflict occurrence.
These team conflict types let team leaders use their conflict resolution skills (like Intervention and Feedback) to look at the original reasons for a group conflict.
Besides this way of investigating team conflicts, there is another way to classify conflicts into the following types
- Constructive team conflicts. Such conflicts arise when team members grow personally and increase their qualifications. Constructive team conflicts result in a solution to a problem and create cohesiveness between team members.
- Destructive team conflicts. They arise when the team problem-solving process fails so no solution is generated and the problem still exists. Destructive conflicts between team members defocus group effort and divert energy away from prioritized activities. Such conflicts demoralize the team and make it polarized.
By understanding all the listed conflict types as well as the given definition, team leaders can achieve better conflict management because they will be able to investigate the nature of team conflicts and generate right resolution.
Conflict isn’t always negative; conflict is inevitable, natural, and even healthy whenever people work together. Conflict can be an effective means for everyone to grow, learn, and become more productive and satisfied in the workplace.
What is unhealthy, however, is the unresolved conflict that is allowed to fester and become a hindrance to an otherwise productive team. Common causes of conflict include employee competition; differences in objectives, values, or perceptions; disagreements about roles, work activities, or individual styles; and breakdowns in communication.
As a result, conflict management is a big part of managing individuals or teams. To manage conflict, a manager must analyze the conflict situation to determine the cause and severity, and then develop a strategy for action. Strategy options include the following.
- Avoidance— Withdrawing from or ignoring conflict.
- Smoothing— Playing down differences to ease conflict.
- Compromise— Giving up something to gain something.
- Collaboration— Mutual problem-solving.
- Confrontation— For verbalization of disagreements.
- Appeal to team objectives— Highlighting the mutual need to reach a higher goal.
- Third-party intervention— Asking an objective third party to mediate.
Remember that conflict should be looked upon as an opportunity. When conflict is identified early, managers can prevent small issues from escalating into major, long-term wars in the workplace.