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Principles of Organizational Behavior,

Resolving Conflict[edit]

Interpersonal conflict should be managed and resolved before it degenerates into verbal assault and irreparable damage to a team. Dealing with interpersonal conflict can be a difficult and uncomfortable process. Usually, as team members, we use carefully worded statements to avoid frictions when confronting conflict.

The first step to resolving interpersonal conflict is in acknowledging the existence of the interpersonal conflict. Recognizing the conflict allows team members to build common ground by putting the conflict within the context of the larger goal of the team and the organization. Moreover, the larger goal can help by giving team members a motive for resolving the conflict.

The Rosetta Stone for dealing with conflict is communication. As team members we all understand the inevitability of interpersonal conflicts. Moreover, as we have established above, open and supportive communication is vital to a high performing team. One way to achieve this is by separating the problem from the person. Problems can be debated without damaging working relationships. When interpersonal conflict occurs, all sides of the issue should be recognized without finger-pointing or blaming. Above all, when team member gets yelled at or blamed for something, it has the effect of silencing the whole team. It gives the signal to everyone that dissent is not allowed, and, as we know, dissent is one of the most fertile resources for new ideas.

When faced with conflict, it is natural for team members to become defensive. However defensiveness usually makes it more difficult to resolve a conflict. A conflict-friendly team environment must encourage effective listening. Effective listening includes listening to one another attentively, without interruption (this includes not having side conversations, doodling, or vacant stares). The fundamentals to resolving team conflict include the following elements:

  1. Prior to stating one’s view, a speaker should seek to understand what others have said. This can be done in a few clarifying sentences,
  2. Seek to make explicit what the opposing sides have in common. This helps to reinforce what is shared between the disputants,
  3. Whether or not an agreement is reached, team members should thank the other for having expressed his view and feelings. Thanking the other recognizes the personal risk the individual took in breaking from group think and should be viewed as an expression of trust and commitment toward the team.