It is painful to watch a team in constant conflict. Rather like a parent wishes for his or her children to like one another, a manager hopes that his or her team will get along and be at least allies if not friends.
It’s important to remember that conflict in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, since being able to argue differing points of view can be a sign of trust within the team. However, prolonged disagreements, rivalries and lack of cooperation are classic symptoms of an unhealthy team. Fail to deal with issues early and your high performing team can quickly turn into an unproductive hotspot.
In today’s world of the virtual team it can be harder than ever for teams to work together harmoniously. Contrast the past where a manager could step outside his office and gather team members together in a room at a moment’s notice, with today where, team members may not see each other from one week to the next and may work even in different offices, countries or continents.
It might seem, at first sight, as though your team simply don’t like one other, but there can be external factors driving disruption within a team such as; fear of redundancy, or a new person joining the team, resulting in a shift in team dynamics.
You may not be able to make the causes go away, but in these circumstances you may be able to deal with the outfall that is resulting in a ‘conflict’ situation.
As a starter allow your team the opportunity to express their concerns in a safe environment, show that you take their concerns seriously, and make sure you have an action plan for change agreed by all parties concerned. Do not take silence as consent, always seek active agreement.
Resolving conflict is rarely an overnight fix. Although you may not realise it, it’s possible that you, the manager, are part of the problem; which in itself can be difficult for team members to voice. For example, there may be perceived favouritism, if a manager appears to value certain characteristics or skills above others.
Arrange for a team building expert to run an event with your team. This could be an external facilitator and someone from a different part of the organisation. Make sure you meet beforehand with the facilitator who will run your event, and not just a company salesperson, so you can gauge whether the person is suitable for you and your team. The team building event should focus on key areas such as communication, understanding differences and trust, although these may not be explicit but rather subtly incorporated into the team challenges or activities.Your facilitator may recommend that you make use of tools such as Insights or MBTI which can help your team members to understand one another’s different preferences and working styles.
It may be that your team building work reveals difficulties particular to just one or two individuals, but impacting the whole team. The best course of action would then be to arrange coaching for these team members, to bring about a change in attitude and behaviour. Remember that your end objective is not to make your team best friends, just to help them work together effectively on common goals.
Until next time,