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Teamwork & Conflicts

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When people work together, the team must have some level of cooperation for the team to accomplish its objectives. In fact, the performance of the team depends in part on the degree of cooperation that team members achieve. Hostile relationships among team members can lead to conflict, which disrupts the team's efforts to achieve specific goals. In turn, supportive relationships lead to collaboration and compromise and the greater likelihood that team members will manage their conflicts and accomplish their goals.

Interpersonal Conflict

Interpersonal conflict is part of organizational life because team members often have incompatible goals, and internal or external demands may be mismatched. A disagreement regarding the layout of an investor report and an argument regarding departmental budgets are examples of conflict that can either negatively affect employee relationships or serve as an incentive for change in the way employees address conflicts. Conflicts also emerge due to differences in people's values. For example, a person may become frustrated if he feels a co-worker does not trust him. Conflict may also result from differing work or communication styles. For example, one team member may avoid a co-worker due to the worker's intimidating or arrogant manner.

Effects of Interpersonal Conflict

Teams are created in hopes that people will work effectively together. However, team member conflict can lead to tension and confusion about team roles. Conflict may also increase employee anxiety, decrease job satisfaction and damage relationships. As a result, conflict negatively affects individual and team performance, and decreases the productivity of the team. In addition, team tension may also lead to complaints by those with whom the team interacts.

Interpersonal Conflict Management

Handling conflict in a positive way can build trust, consensus, inclusiveness and honesty among team members. If you gain an understanding of the motivations of team members and company policies, you can diminish the frequency of disagreements between group members. For example, understanding a company's policy regarding employee promotions can reduce the likelihood an employee will take offense at the promotion of a coworker -- or missing out on a promotion herself. It's also important to avoid ethnic humor, sarcasm and sexist remarks. It is equally important to express appreciation for another person's work and include others in discussions. To counter personality conflicts, team members should learn good team communication, decision-making and how to provide feedback.

Effects of Interpersonal Conflict Management

When team members handle conflicts appropriately, the team members' understanding grows, communications become more open, and individuals are more accepting of personal differences. As positive team behavior becomes an accepted practice, the team members become more effective working as a team than as individuals. Addressing conflict in a positive way, such as playing down differences or asking a third party to mediate, reduces the antagonism that may exist and the morale of team members may improve. In addition, the team members become more committed to reaching their work goals.


Billie Nordmeyer works as a consultant advising small businesses and Fortune 500 companies on performance improvement initiatives, as well as SAP software selection and implementation. During her career, she has published business and technology-based articles and texts. Nordmeyer holds a Bachelor of Science in accounting, a Master of Arts in international management and a Master of Business Administration in finance.

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