Chapter 7. Managing Conflict in the Team

One of the common problems found in teams is the presence of disruptive conflict and hostility. Feelings of animosity between individuals or between cliques or subgroups may have grown to such proportions that people who must work together do not speak to one another at all. All communications are by memo, even though offices are adjoining. Why do such conflicts occur, and how can a team resolve such differences?

In this chapter we will explore the basis of conflict in teams by discussing expectation theory and its application to teams. We will outline the various conflict-resolution methods and then focus on (1) what to do when the manager or team leader is the problem, (2) how to manage diversity successfully in a team, and (3) how to deal effectively with a problem team member.

Expectation Theory of Conflict

Probably the most common “explanation” for understanding conflict is the theory of conflicting personalities. When two people do not get along, it is easiest to say that their “personalities” clash. Underlying this explanation is a presumption that one individual’s personality (a complex of attitudes, values, feelings, needs, and experiences) is so different from another’s that the two just cannot function compatibly. However, attributing team conflict to “personality clashes” is not helpful and in fact often makes things worse, since the only way to resolve the problem would be to get someone to change his or her personality (at a deep ...

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