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Team Dynamics And Conflict Resolution

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Team Dynamics and Conflict Resolution

The idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts is becoming more than simply an adage for many in the workforce. Team based-work has begun to permeate business organizations like never before, and according to the University of Phoenix (2004) teamwork is "Among the more noteworthy and promising approaches for achieving the dual goals of higher productivity and increased worker satisfactionÐ'...." (p. 2) Even as more and more companies shift their organizations to fit a team-based structure, Cole, Schaninger and Harris (2002) note that the management research field lacks extensive background material on the subject. In an effort to address this deficiency, they present the Workplace Social Exchange Network (WSEN). The WSEN attempts to understand not only the social exchanges between the individual, their supervisor, and their work organization, but to also include exchanges between the individual and his or her work team that enhance positive employee decisions.

With the WSEN as a framework for understanding team dynamics, predicting a variety of factors that can affect the effectiveness of the team becomes possible. Still, some additional influences from an individual's background can also affect team dynamics. Lack of communication, different work ethics, and interpersonal conflicts are just a few examples. More importantly, broader groups of individuals categorized by race, sex, and even age can have profoundly different views on which social exchanges are most important. Does the WSEN model account for these background influences? By comparing workers from two different generations using the WSEN model, the answers may be forthcoming.

The decision to focus on differences between the generations that currently make up the workforce is twofold. First, generational influences tend to cross the lines of race and gender. Every generation has characteristics they share in common that supersede other differences in background. Additionally, the University of Phoenix (2003) reports that workers today are likely to find a team setting much more rewarding than workers in the past. Part of this change in worker ideals can be directly attributed to two particular generations: the baby boomers and generation X.

The baby boomers are typically described as those born between the years of 1943 through 1951. The period during which they were raised instilled a very different set of values in this group of people. Two things that are responsible for this difference in attitude include the expansion of higher education opportunities available after World War II and an increased "permissiveness by parents who had survived the Depression and World War II who were also reading Dr. Benjamin Spock." (Raelin 2001, p. 22). In addition, two major life events affecting those raised during this generation were the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War. The 60's reinforced existing humanistic values because of the moral and political guilt the baby boomers felt for those who were less fortunate. (Raelin 2001, p. 22) Because of these influences, Raelin (2001) suggests that members of the baby boomer generation have four specific cultural values: a defiance of authority, a desire to participate in decision-making processes, adherence to a service ethic, and a sense of anti-careerism. The values exhibited by this generation were very different from anything the workforce had experienced before.

Now in their twenties and early thirties Generation X is the second generation of highlighted in this study. Also know as the baby-busters due to the dramatic drop in births from about 1965 through 1985, generation X is also a generation with a substantially different mind set. Technically, everyone born between 1965 and 1985 is a baby buster. Being a baby-buster; however, is more an attitude than age. On the surface, busters can seem positive, even bubbly. Many were known as latch key children, who came from school each day to an empty house and fended for themselves. One effect is that many lacked role models necessary for success in life. Many baby-busters have poor basic skills and a short attention span, having been raised by a surrogate parent Ð'- the television. (Futurist 1992, p. 53)

For baby-busters, family is more frequently defined as those who will love them, rather than using the traditional definition of kinship. In many cases, friends are more family than are parents or siblings. The search for intimacy is a driving force in their lives. As a result, many baby-busters are searching for the family they never had. Baby-busters do not believe in absolute truth. To them, everything is relative, and everything could be true. As baby-busters enter the workforce they are giving managers of today, many which are baby-boomers, fits. Today's managers have a hard time with generation X, believing that there is difficulty in getting these young workers to listen, or to do an honest day's work. In the manager's mind baby-busters would rather be having fun.

The baby-buster generation has a set of eight core values described in The Futurist (1992). They are self-oriented and want to know how this will help me before taking action or making a decision. They are cynical and do not feel the idealism of the baby-boomer generation. Some even call the baby-buster generation the "why bother?" generation. They are materialists and concerned with money, power and status. They are extending their adolescence by living with their parents, taking longer to finish college, and putting off careers for as long as possible. They want quality time as they feel they have been rushed through life and were deprived of time to be a child. They want to have fun, which many believe to be this generation's top priority. They are slow to commit and not as loyal to companies and employers as the previous generation. They do not bow to authority and will not respect a manager without knowing why they are being asked to do a particular task.

Reviewing the eight core values of "generation X" versus the four cultural values of the "baby boomers", both groups defy authority due to different influences in their generation. In addition, returning to Raelin's description of the baby boomers, we find that this generation is "concerned about insuring that work be dignified, personal, and challenging. The 60's encouraged a recurrent interest in intrinsic values and higher-order needs, such as greater involvement, responsibility, and a sense of achievement." (p. 23) This is in direct opposition to studies done about generation X, which is often described as self-oriented and cynical. (Futurist 1992, p. 52) Thus we find the first of what could be seen as potential



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