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Unavoidable conflicts often arise when you work on team projects. Coworker’s differences can contrast sharply to your own, creating tension within the group. These differences are not necessarily a bad thing, though. Healthy constructive criticism helps create diverse methods of thinking and solutions to difficult problems.

There are many responses to conflict within a team, including ignoring the issue, responding with passive aggressive actions, or even blaming the other people involved. Obvious errors usually only appear in retrospect, but here are a few tips for recognizing and solving conflict when working in a group.

1. Acknowledge the Conflict

Ignoring the issues may save someone’s feelings in the short run, but more than likely you will work with this person on future projects. If the issues continue to arise, your built-up resentment may eventually lead to arguments. Avoid anger buildups by facing the conflict head-on and letting your teammate know you disagree with their course of action. While not always pleasant, getting these small disagreements out in the open can help head off future disputes.

2. Stop and Cool Off

Take a minute to think through the course of action you would like to pursue. Avoid destructive behaviors like:

  • Pointing fingers
  • Insults
  • Ultimatums and rigid demands
  • Defensive attitudes
  • Complaining behind teammates backs
  • Making assumptions about others behaviors

These negative behaviors cause coworkers to distrust you and view your argument tactics as manipulative. Going directly to the source of the conflict and rationally discussing your issues will gain you a lot more ground in the workplace than using unscrupulous methods.

 3. Clarify Positions

Let everyone voice his or her opinions on the conflict and be heard. Allowing each team member to explain and elucidate his or her stance will prevent miscommunication. Plus, allowing them to rationalize their opinions may bring more agreement and understanding from other team members.

While people are explaining their viewpoints on the issue in question, practice active listening. Pay attention and refrain from jumping to conclusions.

 4. List Facts and Assumptions Based on Each Position

Once each team member has been allowed to explain their stance on the conflict, list out the facts and assumptions that have been made. Simply writing down the complex facets of an argument can make things appear much clearer to the team. If one side of the conflict is lacking in reasoning, it may be obvious during this step. However, examining the information as a group prevents irrational arguments or possible favoritism from team members.

 5. Break Into Smaller Groups and Separate Existing Alliances

Many times, friendships in the workplace can cloud judgments in team projects. Coworkers may feel the need to agree with each other because they fear losing a friendship. By breaking up these existing alliances when discussing the final team positions, you often avoid this behavior and allow people to view conflicts free of persuasion.

6. Reconvene the Groups

Group of business people gather around a table that says results

 Resolution becomes much easier once these steps have been followed and the team meets again as a whole. After smaller groups have been allowed to freely discuss issues from every angle, viewpoints change, solving the initial conflict. Sometimes team members simply need to have his or her hesitations heard and discussed by the rest of the team. By analyzing the argument together, the team can move forward in agreement or at least a mutual understanding.

When your team is ready to make a decision, set up a list of actionable steps that can be taken to resolve the issue. Putting the conclusion down on paper makes the solution more tangible and creates a reference point for people that wish to review the team’s decision.

7. Celebrate the Resolution as a Team

Acknowledge specific contributions from individuals in the group. This will make them feel good about working towards a solution and leads to the entire team becoming more cohesive because of their united victory. Whether this “celebration” is something small like a congratulatory email or an afternoon off as a reward, recognizing the success promotes team bonding.

Constructive conflict can bring a team closer together if handled properly. Respecting and appreciating your coworker’s differences is key to building a strong team. Resolving conflict when it does arise in a quick and proficient fashion helps maintain a strong and healthy team environment. Remaining open to differing beliefs and ideas is vital, and learning to view conflicts from a coworker’s perspective will help you become a more effective team member.

Every manager has the ability to be a great coach. Avoid these unproductive patterns as you commit to empowering your sales team.

Posted February 4, 2015

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