Conflict Resolution in groups Robert (Bob) Mahon English 1150: Composition Matt Norsworthy Summer 2006 National American University Abstract This paper will delve into the area of conflict and how conflict resolution can be effective in a group setting. Conflicts can arise in our daily lives whether it is in a personal situation or a business environment. Knowing how to recognize the conflict and then addressing the issues in a structured manner can make all the difference in coming to a successful resolution without offending the members in the group. Conflict Chaos What is Conflict?
According to Webster’s New World Dictionary (1967, New World Publishing) “Conflict: to clash; be antagonistic, incompatible, etc. A fight or struggle. ” This description of conflict only touches the surface of what it really means. There are many ways to describe conflicts. People can conflict with scheduling, religion, age, sex, and gender. We encounter these conflicts almost on a daily basis. In a group setting, most of the conflict is within the people themselves. Human beings are a very stubborn species. We like to have everything our own way. When we are in a group setting, we cannot always have our way.
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In a study conducted by Plato in the 18th century, he studied how humans reacted in group settings versus individual behaviors. Plato discovered that most people were prone to behaving in a hostile manner when banded together in a group. Another study conducted by Publius concluded; “In very numerous assemblies, of whatever character composed, passion never fails to wrest the scepter from reason. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob” (American Psychological Association (pg698). During the 18th century, historians were trying to figure out what caused conflicts.
Conflict arises on occasion when you bring new and different people together to participate in interactive activity. In an office environment, many different personalities work together, which is not always an easy task. Different personalities may arise such as the Giver, Thinker, Organizer, and the Adventurer. Different personalities can be beneficial to an office. The benefits to having different personalities can bring qualities and quantities to a company and organization. The different styles of thinking such as a Thinker can bring harmony to the accounting department with new ideas on managing money.
An organizer can find new ways to keep files and important documents in order. Different people around each other can bring out the best in others and open eyes to attitudes and opinions. The most common incompatibility in groups of people is conflict of interests. Interpersonal conflict occurs when the actions of one person attempting to maximize his or her own goals to prevent, block, or interfere with another person attempting to maximize personal goals. Common examples among group members include control over resources (“I want to use the computer now! “), preferences over activities (“I want to meet at the coffee shop now! ), and a range of relationships issues that often result in name calling, insults, threats, or physical aggression (“You are a real jerk! “). (Johnson & Johnson, 1995a). Differences of opinion and attitudes will make drastic changes to various personalities. These changes can affect the group both positively and negatively. The people in the group will learn how to negotiate and solve their problems amongst each other. This is an important trait to learn while working in a group environment. Team Performance Conflicts can affect team performance both negatively and positively in various forms.
Two types of conflict that are most prevalent in groups are substantive conflict and emotional conflict. Substantive conflict is defined as a breakdown in the decision making process. (Scholl, 2001) This happens when two or more parties cannot agree on a choice because of opposing views. Emotional conflict can be thought of as interpersonal conflict. (Scholl, 2001) It arises from conflict over the issues a team may have, how they came to a decision, or by the actual decision itself, and can be felt long after a decision has been made or even after the team has completed their task and has been disbanded.
Emotional conflict affects two people while substantive conflict is felt by an entire group. Substantive conflict arises when two or more people disagree on how to solve a problem with a decision. This can be helpful in a group setting and may improve the problem solving abilities of the individuals involved. Substantive conflict can have positive effects on a team and its performance. Very high levels of this type of conflict are detrimental to the group, and can lead to emotional conflict. If left abandoned, substantive conflict can cause unease among individuals and weaken their commitment to the team. Wood, S. ) Groups can prevent high levels of substantive conflict by setting ground rules in the team charter clearly defining how conflicts of this nature are settled. By doing this groups can focus solely on the “task at hand” rather than procedures or relationships. (Jehn, K. A. 2001) Emotional conflict is very detrimental to a team; it almost never has positive effects. The long lasting feelings brought on by this type of conflict can lead to people leaving a group. In this case, the group will have to go through Tuchman’s five stages of development, which will hinder performance greatly.
If a team has a project due and someone leaves or joins the group, it is a possibility that the group will not meet their deadline. The threat and anxiety associated with relationship-oriented conflict tends to inhibit people’s ability in processing complex information and thus inhibits individual performance. (Ratzberg, Wilf H. ) When relationship conflict is present, much of the group members’ efforts focus on resolving or attempting to ignore the personal conflicts. These efforts severely limit group productivity.
A key point to a group resolving these types of conflict and performing to the best of their ability is that both of these types of conflict usually happen together. By having high levels of trust with each other the potentially negative effects of emotional conflict can be outweighed by the positive effects of substantive conflict. (Wood, S. ) Avoiding Conflict We have addressed the issue on how conflict affects team dynamics and how a team handles conflict. Conflict can have benefits but it can cause tension among the team members and can produce negative outcomes.
Many teams assume that conflict is inevitable but is avoidable. The team’s structure is something that must be recognized before the team meets, this will enable the team to take on the project they have been assigned. What do the members of the team experience? Do the members know each other? Have any of the members had conflict before? Before forming a team, group members need to be aware of the above-mentioned items. This is one way of avoiding conflict and we will look at other methods of keeping conflict at bay. Managing conflict can produce benefits without repercussions.
Team building is an effective way that can reduce the conflict occurrences in the team environment. Team building includes some of the following skills (DeJanascz-Dowd-Schneider, 2001,p. 250): 1. Setting clear objectives. 2. Developing shared goals. 3. Establishing team norms. 4. Understanding the stages on team progression. 5. Clarifying expectations. 6. Planning projects and meeting deadlines. Diversity training is an excellent way for team members to function effectively. This training can give team members an understanding of the differences between individuals.
This can have a positive impact on the team members. Included in diversity training are (DeJanascz-Dowd-Schneider, 2001,p. 250-251) 1. Self-awareness of personal prejudices and stereotypes. 2. How individual differences develop. 3. Valuing differences. 4. Maximizing each person’s strengths and capabilities to the advantage of the organization. 5. Understanding and reducing discrimination. 6. Legal guidelines for dealing with issues such as sexual harassment. 7. Cross-training and cross-functional team-training. Conflict management training has helped companies find a way of dealing effectively with conflict.
Participants learn the following (DeJanascz-Dowd-Schneider, 2001, p. 251): 1. Handle conflict constructively. 2. Respect the legitimacy of others’ points of view, feelings, and perceptions. 3. Listen actively. 4. Communicate assertively. 5. Problem-solve collaboratively. 6. Support conflict constructively. 7. Help others avert unnecessary strife. 8. Anticipate and act accordingly. Communication techniques are extremely important to conflict avoidance. Techniques like “I” language and paying to attention to nonverbal cues can be helpful (DeJanascz-Dowd-Schneider, 2001,p. 251).
Changing how we convey our message can make all the difference in a team environment. Sometimes in the process, conflict can heighten through communication. There are times when the topic must expire to benefit the health of the team. The dynamics of the team dictate what we think of others. Considering the problem can assist in resolving a conflict. Through avoidance, we may be achieving goals, which are distinct from organizational goals, or individual goals. When embracing avoidance on a group level, it may have an effect on team building and creating a definite sense of cohesion and solidarity.
It can reveal its active/productive rather than passive/unproductive nature (Richardson, J. 1995). Conflict Resolution Conflict resolution is the process of resolving a problem between two or more individuals. The individual’s needs must be accommodated for a successful outcome. The goal for conflict resolution is to prevent conflicts before it leads to outright quarrelling. Resolution methods can include conciliation, arbitration, litigation, and mediation. Many techniques will enable conflict resolution. Conflict causes lost time, loss of resources, and inefficiency in teamwork.
A well-managed conflict can become positive by improved performance during decision-making. One possibility in avoiding conflict without actually resolving the dispute is to have each individual recognize the disagreement. The individuals may not conclude but they can move forward with their goals and accomplishments. Sometimes it becomes impossible for two people to negotiate an issue which may require a third party. The third party must mediate with an open mind and willingness to help either side reach a conclusion. The mediator must be considerate and understand that both ndividual sides are viewed as important. A successful mediator will end hostilities and will have both individuals conclude the debate. If mediation fails, arbitration is the next step. Arbitration involves a third party who will carefully listen to both sides and render a decision that is final. This person decides who is correct and incorrect. The arbitrator must have both parties agree on the conclusion and depart on satisfactory terms. Many people avoid conflict at any cost. Conflict resolution training is just one of the many steps in helping others.
Conflict is a normal part of a healthy human relationship. If conflict is ignored; it can cause emotional difficulty and mental exhaustion. If there is a conflict, there is a resolution. In reading about Interpersonal Relationships and Conflict Resolution, by Rob Sandelin, he explains conflict strategies. The first strategy by Rob Sandelin is, “Begin conflict communication with “I” statements that reflect on how you feel. ” Let the other person know why this is important to you. Another strategy is not to take the conflict personally. If the other individual gets frustrated, mad, or upset, stop the discussion mmediately. Don’t place the blame on one another, just come to a resolution to resolve the issue. Rob Sandelin suggests, “Create a special group meeting environment where members can argue, cry, get mad, hug, or whatever it takes to resolve the conflict. Part of the sense of community is feeling safe enough to let real feelings out; these kinds of expressions will help the community to grow. ” This idea can be helpful to people in an uncomfortable situation; hopefully, neither party will be afraid to speak up. Success will follow because it will reate confidence and self growth for the individuals and the team. Conflict has considerable value when managed constructively. It is not about how the conflict occurred but how it is resolved. Learning to resolve conflict is very beneficial. We should always listen to other’s ideas, thoughts, and respect one another’s feelings. Outcomes of conflict Even though conflict is often viewed as negative and may be associated with negative outcomes, it is important to remember that conflict can be positive. Just as necessity is the mother of invention, conflict is the mother of new thinking.
When thinking of how conflict can be good for a team, we must remember that conflict often begins by allowing people to express their ideas and thoughts. When new and different thoughts appear on the table, new and improved ways of operating are created. Often, a group does not realize there is a change needed. An atmosphere that allows each member to input ideas ensures an environment full of participation and interaction. Occasionally, a bit of competition can increase a team’s efforts and speed a conclusion of a project. Multiple opinions often indicate a team of thinkers and can be an indicator of a team’s strength.
If done correctly conflict can increase the team members’ self-confidence and bring on positive recognition of each other’s strengths. It often allows issues to be exposed that some members of the team may not have known existed. Sociologist Lewis Coser argued, “conflict suppression sets the stage for a social explosion some time in the future, as tension will build up until it finally comes bursting out. By allowing smaller releases of tension with little, manageable conflicts, major social catastrophes can be avoided” (Conflict Research Consortium, 1998).
While discussing issues, we are all learning a lesson that is critical to one’s survival: communication skills. We are also learning how to negotiate in our world and respect the opinions of others (even if we do not agree with them). Ireland conducts research on this topic because of their continued violent conflicts. Interventionists are now realizing that teaching the different parties how to hear each other early on is very important. They are starting mediation programs in the schools to teach children at a young age that although conflict is inevitable it need not be destructive.
When speaking of the skills that they are hoping to bring to Ireland’s people, interventionists state that, “[mediation] helps people to view conflict as serving positive functions for them and their relations with others” (Mariya Yevsyukova). The important information researched and conducted is about conflict and resolution. There are many aspects and reasons for conflict but only confident habits to resolve it. Conflict results from differences of opinions, interests, and personalities. Many people combat conflict on a daily basis. We also see how lack of team performance affects spirit.
Team performance is an important part of finishing a project. If participation and communication is falling behind, this situation can be resolved with conflict management. Mediation and arbitration are two methods in resolving a conflict. Many team members will grow from experiences in a group. These experiences may be negative or positive but may help the person learn about themselves and their attitudes. Usually at the end of the project, most team members have grown to respect and accept constructive criticism without an offensive attitude. References Brubaker, Dave. “Northern Ireland: Projects of Hope in the Midst of Violence. MCS Conciliation Quarterly. Spring, 1988. Vol. 7, No. 2. Pp. 8-9. Conflict Research Consortium, International Online Training Program On Intractable University of Colorado, 1998, Retrieved July 23, 2006, from http://www. colorado. edu/conflict/peace/problem/confbad. html. DeJanascz-Dowd-Schneider: Interpersonal Skills in Organizations, Advanced Interpersonal Skills, Conflict: Sources and Solutions, Conflict Prevention Techniques, Team Building, The McGraw ???Hill Companies, 2001 Jehn, K. A. , Mannix, E. A. – The dynamic nature of conflict: A longitudinal study of intra-group conflict and group performance.
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