The team-based organization has caused a change in the way groups are managed. “In fact, nothing has contributed more to the escalation of conflict than the advent of collaborative, team-based work” (Caudron 1998).
Management cannot ignore conflict. They must manage it properly in order to gain its benefits. “People should not be talked out of their differences but be given opportunities to dovetail their conceptions into acceptable conclusions of the whole society. We learn by dealing with problems, noting cause and effect, and making judgment.
Conflict serves to intensify the process and bringing about more appropriate decisions” (Thomas 1983).
In order to foster positive conflict within an organization, management must first recognize that it exists and provide an environment that allows for conflict resolution. “The challenge for organizations is to distinguish normal and healthy differences from destructive conflict and to learn to effectively deal with problem situations before they get out of hand” (Smith 2002).
When conflict seems nonexistent, management should realize the employees are conforming to the norm and are not bringing their individual ideas to the table in fear of ramifications because conflict is perceived as a negative within the organization. “When we fail to recognize an existing or potential conflict, not dealing with it effectively, that problem will invariably go underground and may resurface in a variety of ways. Health and productivity problems are common symptoms among employees” (Thomas 1983).
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“The best way to deal with conflict is to create the kind of culture in which it is acknowledged and supported as a natural part of the business process” (Caudron 2000).
The first is to ensure that all teams are launched properly. An initial meeting should be held to establish the goal, team norms, clarification of empowerment levels and a communication plan (Bens 1999).
By establishing and documenting team standards upfront, employees will be aware of team processes that include a conflict resolution plan. “By providing written guidelines, the fear of different standards for different people will be eliminated, putting all team members on comfortable communication ground with each other” (Gulbranson 1998).
Another important aspect for managing and resolving conflict is to ensure team members are equipped to do their jobs and that key employees have had appropriate conflict management and resolution training. This training should be a two part approach. “One, teach managers how constructive conflict adds value and how they can model the kinds of behaviors that encourage positive dissent or creative abrasion. Two, provide training in communication and conflict management only to employees to who need it” (Caudron 20002).
This selective approach will enhance the skills of those employees directly responsible for ensuring team conflict is resolved in an effective and timely manner. In addition to the above, managers and team leaders must also encourage positive and corrective feedback both for themselves and team members to be used as a tool for conflict resolution.
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Teams must have regular meeting scheduled to establish the forum to discuss team conflict. “The key to effective conflict management is to create a work environment where it is safe to challenge ideas, but forbidden to attack people” (Smith 2002).
These meetings will allow all team members an opportunity to voice their issues, obtain and give constructive feedback, and discuss possible resolutions to the problems. These discussions should be documented by the team so that they can be monitored through resolution. “Conflict resolution will have a positive impact on the ultimate success of a project if effective steps are taken to ensure the productivity of confrontation” (Gulbranson 1998).