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Team Dynamics: Conflict Prevention Strategies

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Team Dynamics: Conflict Prevention Strategies

University of Phoenix

Team Dynamics Conflict Prevention Strategies

"Team" as defined by DeJanasz, Dowd and Schneider (2001) "[I]s a formal work group consisting of people who work together intensely to achieve a common group goal" (p. 310).

With the guidance and counseling of over 500 wealthy Americans in the development of his theory of success, Hill (1934) states that one of the most powerful tools in modern day man's arsenal is the collaboration of minds for a common goal. To reiterate the two heads are better than one declaration, Hill goes on to make this comparison, "A group of brains coordinated (or connected)Ð'..., will provide more thought-energy than a single brain, just as a group of electric batteries will provide more energy than a single battery" (p. 178). It's no wonder why many organizations are using teams for creative problem solving and day-to-day task completion.

Teaming is a requirement for most quality management systems and case studies document many of the successes. Collaboration is favorable but whenever groups of two or more people assemble, conflict will arise. Not all will be counterproductive because part of the team process is introducing different points of view (conflicts of opinion) to achieve a solution or proliferate an idea. Although many schools of thought exist when it comes to resolving counterproductive conflicts within teams, most are avoidable if the proper steps are flowed in the beginning of the team's formation and throughout the group activity.

Success Traits

Nine traits present in most teams that perform highly are unified goals, defined roles, open communication, leadership, efficient size, strong skills, trust, accountability and a reward system (DeJanasz, Dowd and Schneider, 2001, p. 317). Before any team's deployment, the person responsible for assembly needs to have mechanisms in place and select individuals conducive for these. Management will most likely provide the primary objective or long-term goal. The size of the group and skill set of members will be determined by the team's assembler. It's possible that the person assembling the team may also delegate individual team member's roles. Depending on the team's level, most of the remaining characteristics will be defined or build collectively by the members themselves. How do high performing teams generally accomplish this?


Teams must communicate effectively and frequently to be successful. Yu's (2005) report notes, "effective teamwork requires that team members communicate a minimum of one to three times per week" (p. 7). Members "should not isolate themselvesÐ'... [less] they become blinded by their own assumptions and develop their own language, which can lead to misinterpretations or noncomplementary approaches to innovation within the team" (p. 7). Conversely, meeting too frequently can result in the groupthink mentality, a mode of decision-making focused more so on the harmony of the group and not on logically seeking "alternative courses of action" (Kreitner & Kinicki 2003 p. 433). A balance must be maintained in order to achieve success.

It's good to encourage input from all team members on all topics. An outsider with specialize knowledge in an unrelated area can provide a unique prospective overlooked or taken for granted by the group. Outsiders tend to ask the question that can stimulate critical thinking. The methods of communication should also be intuitive for multiple personalities. For instance, a member may be uncomfortable addressing a group of people. So having to stand and present his idea on the whiteboard in front of everyone will be a deterrent to participate. Valuable input may be lost or late coming because of this. Utilize chain emails outside of face-to-face meetings to circulate topics of discussion. Teleconferencing is another option to help get everyone involved.


Proper leadership (or facilitation) accepted by the team is a key to productivity. The role of the leader is to provide adequate motivation and induce synergy. Communicating schedules, progress reports, and providing constructive feedback as necessary is important. A good leader shall "[p]rovide an atmosphere of enthusiasm in which individual team members are stimulated to perform well, find fulfillment, gain self respect and play integral roles in meeting the team's overall goals" (Pearce 2007 p.25). A team is only as strong as their leadership and a leader is only as strong as his team.

A leader must ensure that the team has an agreed upon method for resolving conflicts in place. Such as group voting where the majority vote rules. Even specify when a third party facilitator should be involved. Establishing these guidelines up front will help to avoid prolonged conflicts that can result in lost productivity. It is also the responsibility of the leader to deal with problem members and address setbacks.





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