Conflict arises from differences, and when individuals come together in teams, their differences in terms of power, values, and attitudes contribute to the creation of conflict. To avoid the negative consequences that can result from disagreements, most methods of resolving conflict stress the importance of dealing with disputes quickly and openly. Conflict is not necessarily destructive, however. When managed properly, conflict can result in benefits for a team.
Handling Negative Conflict
When negative conflict does occur there are five accepted methods for handling it: Direct Approach, Bargaining, Enforcement, Retreat, and De-emphasis (Nelson, 1995). Each can be used effectively in different circumstances.
- Direct Approach: This may be the best approach of all. It concentrates on the leader confronting the issue head-on. Though conflict is uncomfortable to deal with, it is best to look at issues objectively and to face them as they are. If criticism is used, it must be constructive to the recipients. This approach counts on the techniques of problem-solving and normally leaves everyone with a sense of resolution, because issues are brought to the surface and dealt with.
- Bargaining: This is an excellent technique when both parties have ideas on a solution yet cannot find common ground. Often a third party, such as a team leader, is needed to help find the compromise. Compromise involves give and take on both sides, however, and usually ends up with both walking away equally dissatisfied.
- Enforcement of Team Rules: Avoid using this method if possible, it can bring about hard feelings toward the leader and the team. This technique is only used when it is obvious that a member does not want to be a team player and refuses to work with the rest. If enforcement has to be used on an individual, it may be best for that person to find another team.
- Retreat: Only use this method when the problem isn’t real to begin with. By simply avoiding it or working around it, a leader can often delay long enough for the individual to cool off. When used in the right environment by an experienced leader this technique can help to prevent minor incidents that are the result of someone having a bad day from becoming real problems that should never have occurred.
- De-emphasis: This is a form of bargaining where the emphasis is on the areas of agreement. When parties realize that there are areas where they are in agreement, they can often begin to move in a new direction.