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Well balanced and high performing teams are proven to have fantastic results in terms of productivity and motivation. That being said, workplace conflict within a team can spread quickly, damage working relationships, lower productivity and negatively impact morale.

Particularly in times of business growth, when stress and uncertainty levels are high, internal conflict may become more prevalent. So what can you do stabilise your team during this unnerving (but exciting!) time? If team conflict is one of your current concerns, this blog will help you to identify its causes and therefore decide the best course of action.

Conflict is actually a normal part of working with others. It is to be expected, but doesn’t always need to have negative consequences. It is often described as either functional or dysfunctional; while functional conflict enables a group to maximise its performance, that which is dysfunctional disrupts the group and prevents achieving its goals. Managing that balance is the key to effective groups, since when managed appropriately to find a compromise it will result in the generation of innovative solutions that otherwise wouldn’t have been achieved – among other beneficial outcomes. After all, the phrase ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is very appropriate when it comes to managing a team!

For example, constructive conflict will…

  • Allow people to change and grow personally

  • Result in a solution to the problem

  • Increase involvement of everyone affected

  • Build cohesiveness among member of the team

But destructive conflict will…

  • Divert energy away from activities that add value
  • Destroy morale
  • Divide the team
  • Not result in a solution/decision

Conflict is defined as the result of “a clash of perception, goals, or values in an area where people care about the outcome” (Alessandra, 1993). Therefore, particularly during times of business growth or change, conflict is likely to arise from varying perceptions of the changes, shifting goals, and changing personal values. It can be stressful, people fear the unknown and often times there are perceived ‘winners and losers’ of business change, which can all build into team conflict.

Specifically, change is often resisted as the result of:

  • Perceived loss of control

  • Uncertainty (better the devil you know!)

  • Lack of preparation – particularly if changes are imposed suddenly with little time to get used to it

  • Loss of face – changes usually occur when things can be improved, which can result in people becoming defensive if they feel their methods are being attacked

  • Questioning competence – change is resisted when it makes individuals feel stupid or fearful that they will become obsolete. They might express skepticism about whether the new software version will work, but down deep they are worried that their skills can’t keep up..

  • Ripple effect into personal life

  • Extra work!

Of course, change will also impact people differently depending on their predisposition and how they approach it. It’s worth taking some time to understand the individuals in you team so you can identify the best ways to help them get behind the changes.

Combining a strong understanding of your team with a clear strategy will enable you to adapt your management style accordingly.

In general, the best way to manage conflict during times of business growth is threefold;

  1. Communication is an essential requirement for any manager, and particularly important during periods of business change

    • Since change is often resisted due to fear, uncertainty and subsequent stress the best way to guide your team through this process is to clearly communicate what all the changes are, what they mean, and their implications for each individual. Communication will empower them to not only accept the changes, but embrace them too!
    • It’s important to allocate some time so your team can voice their concerns and find a way to resolve them. Communication should be a two-way process, and will help your employees to iron out any problems before they become disruptive
    • Since some individuals may resist change due to fear of becoming obsolete, it’s important to regularly communicate the value they bring to the team and the business. Enable them to really own the role they play, and encourage them to develop their skills further to embrace any changes if necessary.
  1. Since conflict may arise as the result of blurred or misaligned goals and values, it’s important to regularly remind your team of shared values and common goals. Afterall, a passion for the values of the business is what brought everyone together in the first place (or should have been!)

  1. Your team is made up of individuals who have a valuable set of skills and bring a unique talent to the group. While they may be a brilliant thinker or have a unique creative flare…they may not have the best team working abilities. Provide training to enable your team to recognise and resolve any conflict. The key is to encourage individuals to view difficult situations from each other’s perspectives – it will improve understanding and cohesion, and allow the team to merge different ways of thinking to create a completely unique solution.

Following these guidelines will help you and your team to navigate through times of business growth. Of course, every group will be different and require a unique management strategy. If you need help with your team, get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!