Managing Team Conflict

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 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.