No one can whistle a symphony; it takes an orchestra to play it.

H. E. Luccock

Conflict is an integral part of the life of teams. It is inevitable because teams are made up of people and no two people are alike. When people come together, they bring with them different ways of seeing things. When these differences show up, people can feel threatened, and conflict emerges. Interestingly, these same differences can bring excitement and creativity, as well as stress and frustration. In this chapter, we unravel the origin of conflict in teams and explore why it can be so difficult to address.

Team Models and Conflict

Most major conceptual models of teams recognize the role of conflict, yet they do so in different ways. Katzenbach and Smith (2003) note in The Wisdom of Teams,"A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable" (p. 45). They create their common purpose through effective communications and constructive conflict. In this case, conflict serves as a catalyst for developing team identity and direction.

From a group developmental perspective Tuckman's stages of forming, storming, norming, and performing represent a model of how teams evolve and present a clear picture of the key role of conflict in this process (Tuckman, 1965). In the storming stage, teams experience intragroup ...

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