This month’s newsletter follows last month’s topic on Groupthink and group conflict. Here we lay out some strategies for managing team conflict so that it can serve as a catalyst for change and growth, rather than drain your organization’s energy and resources.
Alternative Resolutions, LLC helps teams and organizations handle group conflict so that it can be an engine for productive growth.
Did you know that 42% of a manager’s time is spent on reaching agreement with others when conflict occurs? A recent study by Consulting Psychologists Press found that an overwhelming 85% of employees at all levels experience conflict to some degree. U.S employees spend 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict equating to approximately $359 billion in paid hours. If managed improperly, productivity, operational effectiveness and morale suffer. The study found that 27% of employees have witnessed conflict as a personal attack and 25% report that avoidance of conflict resulted in increased absence from work.
Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness It to Thrive. Consulting Psychologists Press.
If you are a manager, supervisor or team leader and there are issues among and between members of your team what steps can you take to resolve these conflicts? Conflict can be a source of growth and change if it is managed correctly. Should you just bring in a mediator and have her manage your next team meeting and get the issues out on the table? That is one tactic. At Alternative Resolutions, LLC we recommend a structured problem solving approach which is outlined below.
First we meet with the manager and conduct a needs assessment. We ask broad open-ended questions about the nature of the current issues that are interfering with team performance or interpersonal relationships. Then, depending on the size of the department or team we meet with a sampling of the team members to learn their perspective. If a manager dictates who we should talk to that sends a warning flag that there is a key concern that s/he doesn’t want unearthed.
Second, from these interviews we get a picture of the nature of the issues that are plaguing the department. If there are interpersonal issues between various sets of people we recommend mediation as a first step. Then we develop a draft agenda which focuses on the team issues. Sometimes we conduct a survey. People like surveys . Only our neutrals get to see the individual survey results. If the team is big enough and has several managers we may collate the staff results and leadership results separately.
One client recently asked me, “What is the difference between the subject of the mediation and that of the team-wide meeting?” If there are hurt feelings, resentment, or distrust between two individuals that is an appropriate subject for mediation. It wouldn’t be appropriate to resolve those issues at a team-wide meeting. However, if there are larger issues regarding
cooperation, communication or project management then those can be addressed by the group at a team-wide meeting or retreat.
The agenda serves as a road map for a team retreat. It is a day for group introspection and brainstorming. The survey results are like a thermometer reading of the group characteristics such as goal clarity, roles and responsibilities, risk taking and leadership to name a few. With one client where communication and trust was an issue the team developed a charter for communication procedures that everyone agreed to at the team retreat. There was a tremendous improvement in staff morale as a result. When staff have a chance to have input on problem solving in their workplace there is greater sense of value and self-worth. Top down management and dictation of protocols is not going to be successful in the average American workplace today. Rather, try building and maintaining collaboration within and across work teams to make your organization more efficient and effective.
Ellen F. Kandell is a certified professional mediator and attorney with over 30 years of public and private sector experience. She provides mediation, group facilitation and training to diverse, national clients. Get in touch with her via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or give her a call at 301-588-5390.