Lindred Greer: Managing Conflict in Teams | Summary and Q&A

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October 31, 2014
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Stanford Graduate School of Business
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Lindred Greer: Managing Conflict in Teams

TL;DR

Understand the signs of negative conflict, encourage productive conflicts, and proactively manage conflicts for better team performance.

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Key Insights

  • 😤 Conflict can be positive or negative for team performance, depending on how it is managed.
  • 😤 Task conflicts, focusing on genuine differences of opinion, can be helpful for team performance.
  • 💄 Process conflicts can indicate underlying status concerns, making them particularly harmful.
  • 😤 Relationship conflicts and status conflicts also have detrimental effects on team performance.
  • 😤 Virtual teams require a face-to-face kick-off to establish rapport and prevent misattributions in conflicts.
  • 🥺 Failure to resolve conflicts can lead to severe consequences, including burnout, depression, and team dissolution.
  • ❓ Successful conflict management involves understanding the topic, motivations, and emotions behind the conflict.

Transcript

[MUSIC] I would say there's two clear signs that would indicate when a conflict is about to become a negative conflict for the team or for the business. The first sign that a conflict is going to become a negative force in your team, is if the emotions are starting to escalate. If people are getting angry or if they're getting upset. This is a sign... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What are the signs that a conflict is becoming destructive for a team?

The signs of destructive conflicts are escalating emotions and fighting over trivial matters. These indicate a shift towards personal, distracting conflicts that may stem from underlying issues of status, respect, or leadership.

Q: How do conflicts in teams generally escalate?

Conflicts in teams often start with one person expressing disagreement, leading to an interpersonal conflict between two individuals. Subgroups may form, intensifying the conflict and making it more personal and destructive.

Q: How should a manager handle conflicts within a team?

A manager should first identify the nature of the conflict and the individuals involved. If the conflict is related to important task discussions, it may be beneficial to let it play out. However, if the conflict is personal or about trivial matters, the manager should intervene and resolve the conflict offline.

Q: What are the different types of destructive conflicts in teams?

There are three types: process conflicts (related to logistics and roles), relationship conflicts (due to personality clashes), and status conflicts (concerning respect and hierarchy). All three types can negatively impact team performance.

Summary

In this video, the speaker discusses the signs of negative conflict within a team and how conflicts can escalate and become destructive. They also provide insights on how managers can identify and manage conflicts within their teams. Additionally, the video explores different types of conflicts that can occur within teams and their potential impact on team performance. Finally, the speaker offers tips for managing conflicts in organizations.

Questions & Answers

Q: What are the signs that a conflict is going to become negative for the team or business?

Signs that a conflict is going to become negative include escalating emotions, such as anger or upset, and fighting over insignificant issues that shouldn't be important. These signs indicate that the conflict is becoming personal and distracting from task performance, making it destructive for the team.

Q: How do conflicts generally start in a team?

Conflicts usually start when one person disagrees with something being discussed in a group. They express their conflict, and other team members have the choice to engage or not. Interpersonal conflicts arise when two people in the team have different opinions. At this stage, conflicts can be positive as they stem from authentic interest and the need to reconcile differences in opinion.

Q: What factors lead to the escalation of conflicts in teams?

Conflicts escalate when more members join in, either due to emotional reactions or to support a friend or colleague involved in the conflict. As subgroups form and start fighting with each other, conflicts become more personal and destructive. Eventually, all remaining members get involved, leading to a team brawl that harms team performance.

Q: What should a manager do when they detect a conflict in the team?

The first step for a manager is to understand what the conflict is about, who is involved, and why. If the conflict revolves around a task and the members are engaging in a debate with the intention of improving the team, the manager should allow the conflict to play out. However, if the conflict is personal, emotional, or focuses on unimportant issues, the manager should intervene and resolve the conflict offline by talking to the individuals involved.

Q: What are the different types of conflict that can negatively impact team performance?

In addition to task conflicts, there are three destructive types of conflict: process conflicts, relationship conflicts, and status conflicts. Process conflicts arise from logistical issues and are often a manifestation of underlying status concerns. Relationship conflicts stem from personality clashes and political differences. Status conflicts involve conflicts about hierarchy and power within the team.

Q: How can virtual teams manage conflicts effectively?

One solution for virtual teams is to have a face-to-face kick-off when starting to work together. This allows team members to spend time getting to know each other, which helps them understand the context and intentions behind conflicts that may arise later through digital communication. This can prevent taking conflicts personally and enable better attributions and resolutions.

Q: What are the potential consequences of not resolving conflicts within a team?

If conflicts are not managed and resolved, they can have severe consequences. Research shows that unresolved conflicts can lead to psychosomatic complaints, burnout, depression, increased employee turnover, and even the dissolution of teams. It is crucial for managers to take conflicts seriously and prevent them from reaching such detrimental levels.

Q: What are the top three tips for managing conflict in an organization?

The top three tips for managing conflict are: 1) Understand what the conflict is about and choose the appropriate course of action. 2) Recognize the motivations behind the conflict and address underlying issues. 3) Monitor the emotions during conflicts and intervene when emotions escalate, resolving the conflict individually or finding a way to defuse the situation before it gets out of control.

Takeaways

Conflicts in teams can become negative and destructive when emotions escalate, and when fighting revolves around unimportant issues. It is important for managers to identify conflicts and determine their topics, motivations, and emotional aspects in order to effectively manage them. Additionally, understanding the different types of conflicts, such as process conflicts, relationship conflicts, and status conflicts, can help managers address the underlying issues that may be fueling the conflicts. Virtual teams can benefit from initial face-to-face interactions to prevent misinterpretations and personalization of conflicts that may arise in digital communication. Failing to resolve conflicts can have detrimental effects on team performance and overall well-being, so managers should take conflicts seriously and intervene when necessary. The top tips for managing conflicts include understanding the topic, motivations, and emotions, and taking appropriate action to address the conflicts and prevent escalation.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Two clear signs of negative conflict in a team are escalating emotions and fighting over unimportant issues, indicating a need to address underlying concerns.

  • Conflict can start with one person expressing disagreement, leading to an interpersonal conflict between two people. Subgroups may form, intensifying and potentially damaging team performance.

  • Managers should assess the nature of conflicts and intervene appropriately. Task conflicts can be productive, while personal or process conflicts should be resolved offline.

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