An earlier article this month discussed the effective methods of assigning group roles and structuring a team. However, even though a group might be structured, different conflicts can still arise during the group members’ interaction with one another, perhaps through disagreements between group members about each others’ methods or conclusions. These conflicts not only cause friction and tension between group members, but can also destroy the productivity of the group and can cause the project to fail. Therefore, it is vital for a group to be able to resolve these conflicts as quickly and effectively as possible.
Although each specific conflict might be unique to a particular group and its members, the generalized approaches to resolving the conflict are the same. Below are the five different approaches and each is appropriate for different situations:
An often frowned-upon strategy, avoidance of the issue is nonetheless the most commonly used approach for conflict resolution, simply because people use this approach without realizing it. Quite often, if one is faced with an awkward question or request, he or she would often simply avoid the issue. While it is true that avoidance can never completely solve a problem, it does however prevent the expansion of minor problems into larger ones.
This approach is a purely “self-righteous” approach in the sense that the party using it will seek no less than to completely win the argument or debate in their favor. This resolution method is widely used by team leaders who have to demonstrate their ability to make the final say, however it is not recommended to be used all the time, as the obvious drawback would be the decrease in team cohesion.
The opposite of assertion, using this method would mean that the party is ceding the argument to the other side – in other words, surrendering. This is a useful approach to use when one realizes his or her mistake and is using this opportunity to apologize to or make up with the other party. As with assertion, it is important to not use this method all the time as the utilizing party’s image will suffer.
Also known as “meeting in the middle,” compromising is the approach of allowing the two parties to come to an equal ground with regards to the argument. A very popular approach, the major drawback to this method is the fact that no one actually wins the argument or debate, so if this was a conflict for making a decision, then the decision would be affected negatively or might not be carried out entirely.
The ideal approach to solving problems, this method involves both parties sitting down and closely negotiating their sides of the argument to see how they can integrate each others’ ideas into their own to great a single, better idea. While this would be the best case, it is often impractical to use collaboration for many situations, especially if both parties are on bad terms with one another.
It is very important to select and adjust the above five approaches accordingly to each situation, as each specific conflict is different and different people react well to different approaches. If all attempts fail to work out the problem with the other party, a good idea would be to incorporate a third-party solution, such as mediation. Knowing the proper approaches to resolving conflicts will help team cohesion in the long-run and help guarantee the project’s success!