There were many events at my workplace where conflict had arisen. An instance where conflict had affected the whole team was shortly after I started working for the company and during a time where my branch was preparing for a branch audit. During this period, we were gathering our information, making sure all information was correct and in order, and procedures adequately followed and documented for several years back. As my team members were doing this, we found that a great many things were not done correctly, and paperwork was either missing or incomplete.
Therefore my team had to work overtime to gather and attempt to find the missing paperwork.
There was a great deal of tension between my team members and me, which was causing some conflict out of aggravation. It came to be that no matter how hard we worked the missing paperwork and a few other things could not be unchanged or replaced.
When the auditor came, the branch had received an “F” for an audit grade. Of course, that meant the entire department was in trouble with the district manager. Once the district manager heard about what had happened, it became a game of dominos. The district manager had come down on the branch manager. The branch manager had come down on the assistant manager, the assistant manager then brought it to my attention that I was going to have to explain why we failed. It was all coming down on me, and no one was taking responsibility for his or her actions.
Simple tasks are less likely than complex tasks to put a strain on individuals involved. If the path between the problem and the solution is clear and the distance is short, too much attention to process could be an unproductive investment of people’s time. But complex tasks for which no solution is obvious or that require the cooperation of many actors can put a significant strain on people’s attention, emotions, and comfort in a group.
I went back through the information that I had previously researched for the audit and wrote up a report. Following the report, I had to meet with the branch manager as well as the district manager. I explained my findings of why the branch was not following company policy. Of course, it did not impress the district manager as to what had occurred during the branch audit and even before that.
While in my meeting with the both of them, I explained that there was no excuse for what had happened currently or in the past. They seemed to agree with me.
We then discussed what would have prevented this from happening and what do my team members feel can prevent this from happening in the future. It all led to my entire branch going through extensive employee training and having one of the assistants to our district manager traveling down once a month to ensure proper procedures were indeed being followed. Of course, some of the employees were dismayed with the decision, but they were the ones who contributed to the problem in the first place. They disagreed with my suggestions and that caused some conflict within our office.
Conflict is unavoidable in a competent group. Rarely do faithful members work in groups for any length of time without expressing differences and disagreeing. Despite the inevitability of conflict, many of us go out of our way to avoid or suppress it. One of the myths about user groups is that chumminess characterizes them. Many effective teams look more like battlegrounds. Teams with vastly competent members embrace conflict as the price of synergy and set good ideas against good ideas to arrive at the best idea.
Some of the benefits to the extra training were not only allowing the current employees of our branch to receive refresher courses but also ensured that future employees would also receive training to ensure they are comfortable before they are released on their own. At times, I wished those other employees would have done the job precisely the first time but that was not the case, and we all had to pay the price for their negligence.
However, I finally realized that the past is the past and there was nothing we can do to change history. We all had to go with the flow. The company was not looking to place blame on one or two particular employees, but let us all know that it was not acceptable. Happily, research now indicates that some degree of conflict is a healthy experience for groups. Well managed conflict can lead to a deeper understanding of problems faced by a group, greater creativity and innovation in problem-solving, and even increased acceptance of group decisions by individuals.
The team conflict resolved that everyone in the company who did or did not cause the conflict would be able to gain more respect, knowledge of their job(s), and more knowledge of teamwork. Once the district manager had concluded that the current employees had full knowledge of the company policies and procedures, he dismissed us from the extensive training and had a team meeting with everyone in our district.
He explained his reasoning behind the training and explained the consequences that came along with it, even if it were one or two people who may have stepped out of line, everyone had to do had to go through the training. He wanted to make sure that everyone was going to learn from one person’s mistake, yet everyone is learning the same lesson at the same time and in the same way.
Conflict is a part of life and a part of every team. Teams who realize that conflict is a normal and healthy aspect of teams and use conflict to pull them to new heights rather than divide them will succeed.
Three recommendations I would make for the future are these three things:
- Avoidance: Teams with norms that require members to ignore interpersonal differences often perform better than teams with norms that encourage members to voice all of their likes and dislikes about each other.
- Compromise: Requires that each side of a dispute make concessions. When a conflict arises with your group/team, it is good to compromise on the situation, that way people are working as a team and not as individuals.
- Integrative Bargaining: Integrative procedures bring together parties in dispute and help them search for a win/win solution.
One of the many aspects that stand out to me is conflict resolution. To resolve conflict, a group must fully understand member concerns. If members do not understand the problem, they cannot efficiently find solutions. Everyone wants to be a leader, but not everyone is meant to be a leader.
One definition of leadership is the act of influencing others. Leadership implies that any team member can exercise leadership and influence over her peers, meaning that the existence of a team without leadership is not possible, even though it may not have a formal leader.
The final aspect of group conflict that stood out for me would be Mediation. Mediation is an appropriate approach to conflict resolution when group members are unable to resolve the conflict by themselves and when everyone concerned is willing to participate in the process and abide by the final settlement.
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