Q. How do you reconcile task conflict and belief or personality conflict? The working group I am in is experiencing challenging task conflicts because of our differing needs, attitudes and personalities. What is the best way to present this challenge without looking as if we’re not team players?
Conflict is not always unhealthy since it can provide learning opportunities, innovations and better solutions. The challenge, however, lies in how the conflict manifests, so the team leader has to step up their game and create a non-threatening environment for best ideas to thrive.
Some very obvious ways to minimise conflict is to ensure that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and assigned based on expertise and capability of team members. There should also be an acceptable code of behaviour that defines how team members should communicate and relate to one another. Consequences where there is a breach of the rules should also be understood.
There are some considerations that can be made when resolving conflicts, the first is to push for a collaborative approach, where conflicting parties see the best in their opponents and agree on a workable solution. For this to work, all parties have to be accommodating and reasonable. The leader should however avoid a situation where both parties withdraw from the conflict to maintain peace and harmony at the expense of a good idea. Creating a mechanism where ideas can be ranked in a systematic way can also create some good consensus.
But then there is the conflict that arises when personalities clash. Choosing a team that needs to work together should not just be informed by skills and competencies, but also by behaviours and values. There has to be mutual respect among team members, trust, good communication and timely feedback.
Where two members of a team conflict to an extent where assigned tasks get compromised, the team leader may have to remove either the two from the team, or the trouble maker. This should happen after efforts to reconcile the two have failed. If the leader is part of the problem, the team members can seek the right channels to change the leader. No matter what, however, conflict in a team is bound to happen. The best solution is to anticipate it and take swift and firm action.