Article published in Fresh Business Thinking, November 2015
Most teams will experience conflict and tension regularly. There are many different causes for this and they can play themselves out in various ways. Sometimes in an open, argumentative way and sometimes in a passive aggressive way where everyone nods while in the room but once outside, people argue behind each other’s backs and don’t achieve what they need to, together. When this happens, productivity is affected as time is wasted on the conflict rather than focusing on getting the job done.
Reasons for conflict
Leaders and team members need to be aware of some of the common reasons for conflict:-
- Lack of communication – when people are not given enough information they fill in the gaps
- People not communicating their thoughts and concerns – which could have provided the clarification they needed to avoid the sense of conflict
- Virtual teams – when people have no access to non-verbal clues in communication, there is more risk of misunderstanding
- Personal differences – uniqueness in people creates differences in teams. If people don’t understand these personal differences they look at others values and opinions as flawed which causes tensions
- Conflicting goals- if team members have differing goals their priorities will differ which causes conflict or at least tension. This is particularly prevalent in matrix organisations
- Competitive behaviours – when roles are unclear people end up doing the same things. This makes people feel like they are competing for the task and conflict is almost guaranteed
Impact of conflict
If the impact of conflict and tensions are not managed, they erode trust. This can make people work on their own rather than cooperate and work together. Team members often waste time thinking about conflict and talking to others about it, which creates more tension.
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