Mastering Conflict Resolution in Teams: A Guide to Effective Communication and Improved Relationships

Conflict is inevitable in any team setting, but it’s how the conflict is resolved that can make all the difference. Teams that have effective conflict resolution skills are more productive, innovative, and have better morale than teams that struggle with conflict. In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of conflict resolution in teams and how it can benefit your organization.

Why Conflict Resolution In Teams Matters

In the United States, employees spend close to three hours weekly in conflict situations, which can accumulate to take up to 40% of a manager’s work time. With the rise of remote and hybrid work arrangements due to the pandemic, identifying and avoiding conflict has become even more challenging.

Although conflict can be negative, it’s not always the case. The absence of conflict can lead to stagnation and conformity, otherwise known as “groupthink,” but healthy disagreement can spark innovative solutions. Furthermore, discussing differing opinions can foster better understanding and improved relationships among team members.

However, managing conflict effectively requires a skill set that not all leaders possess. Poor conflict management can negatively impact teams and harm a leader’s reputation. As a new leader, it’s important to be proactive in preventing conflicts from escalating or effectively addressing them when they do arise.

If left unresolved, conflicts can escalate and create an unhealthy work environment that affects the team’s morale and productivity. Teams that have a culture of open communication and conflict resolution skills are better equipped to handle these challenges and maintain a positive work environment. That is why conflict resolution in teams can make a difference in your workplace.

Differentiating Between Unproductive and Productive Conflict in the Workplace

Unproductive conflict is characterized by negative interactions between team members, such as personal attacks, mistrust, and a general inability to get along. These conflicts are often driven by emotions and ego, rather than a focus on achieving the goals of the team. In such situations, team members may become defensive, unwilling to listen to each other’s perspectives, and may even engage in behaviors that undermine the success of the team.

On the other hand, productive conflict occurs when team members engage in healthy disagreements and debates over different approaches or ideas. These conflicts are centered around finding the best solution to a problem, and team members are willing to listen to each other’s perspectives and challenge their own beliefs. Productive conflict can lead to better decision-making and increased innovation, as team members bring diverse perspectives and insights to the table.

In productive conflict, team members are respectful of each other’s opinions, and they are willing to compromise and find common ground. A good leader can facilitate productive conflict by creating a safe and inclusive environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions. The leader can also help the team stay focused on the goal, and encourage team members to listen to each other and collaborate to find the best solution.

A good leader can foster a culture of productive conflict by creating a safe and inclusive environment and encouraging team members to engage in healthy debates and disagreements.

What Causes Conflict? 

Harvard Business Review conducted a survey of over 1,000 managers and their subordinates from 76 global companies to determine the root causes of conflict in organizations. The findings revealed that 91% of conflicts within organizations can be attributed to four triggers: communication discrepancies (39%), vague performance expectations (14%), inflexible time frames (16%), and vague expectations (22%). The study concluded that recognizing the source of stress can prevent conflicts from arising.

Benefits Of Conflict Resolution In Teams

Conflict resolution in teams has several benefits, including:

  •     Improving communication: Teams that engage in conflict resolution are more likely to have open communication and can discuss sensitive issues without fear of retaliation. This also makes way for rules for engagement and discussions that frame how people can disagree (even vehemently) without “conflict.”
  •     Enhancing collaboration: When conflicts are resolved effectively, team members are more likely to trust and respect each other, leading to improved collaboration.
  •     Increasing creativity: Teams that have a culture of open communication and resolution are more likely to be innovative and come up with creative solutions.
  •     Boosting morale: Teams that have healthy conflict resolution practices are more likely to have high morale and job satisfaction.

Tips for Conflict Resolution In Teams

Trust is a critical factor in resolving conflicts. When team members trust each other, they are more likely to be open and honest in their interactions, and less likely to engage in unproductive behaviors like personal attacks and mistrust. Trust allows team members to listen to each other’s perspectives and work together to find a solution that benefits everyone. In contrast, when trust is lacking, team members may become defensive and unwilling to listen to each other, making it more difficult to resolve conflicts in a productive manner.

Therefore, building trust is an important step before resolving conflicts. A leader who fosters a culture of trust can help create an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing their opinions and working together to find solutions to challenges. With trust in place, conflicts can be approached with a focus on finding the best solution, rather than defending personal interests or positions.

Here are some tips to help teams resolve conflicts effectively:

Encouraging open communication

One of the most important steps in conflict resolution in teams is to encourage open communication. Team members should be encouraged to express their concerns and feelings in a respectful manner. This allows everyone to understand each other’s point of view and work together towards finding a solution. It’s important to create an environment where team members feel safe to express their opinions, and where everyone is willing to listen to each other. This can be achieved through regular team meetings, town hall discussions, and other forums where team members can openly communicate with each other.

Listening actively

All parties involved should be encouraged to listen attentively to each other’s perspectives and try to understand each other’s points of view. This helps to identify the root cause of the conflict and can help in finding a solution that is acceptable to all parties. Active listening also shows respect for others and their opinions and can help to diffuse tensions and prevent conflicts from escalating.

Focusing on the issue, not the person

Conflicts should always focus on resolving the issue at hand, not attacking the person. Team members should be encouraged to stay calm and professional and avoid personal attacks. Focusing on the issue rather than the person helps to keep the discussion on track and ensures that the solution is tailored to the problem, not the person.

Identifying common goals

When approaching conflict resolution in teams, it’s important to find common ground and focus on shared goals. Encouraging team members to identify their common goals can help to create a shared understanding of the situation and can help everyone to work together to find a solution. This can also help to create a sense of unity and can help to build stronger relationships among team members.

Seeking outside help

If the conflict cannot be resolved by the team members, seeking outside help from a coach is necessary. A coach can provide guidance and support to the team and can help to create an environment where conflicts can be resolved in a constructive manner. The aim is to find a solution that benefits the entire team and helps to create a positive and productive work environment. 

We Coach Leaders and Teams to Excellence

Named after Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden, a place of transformation, Arden Coaching is dedicated to shaping leaders who help teams and companies run smoothly, efficiently, and profitably. Our high ethical standards, exceptional coaches, and commitment to our clients make the Arden Coaching experience unrivaled in the industry. 

At Arden Coaching, we believe that effective conflict resolution in teams is crucial in building successful teams and organizations. Our powerful methodology not only helps clients be proactive instead of reactive but also equips them with the necessary skills to resolve conflicts in a constructive and positive manner.

Our coaches help teams identify the root causes of conflicts and encourage open communication, active listening, and a focus on the issue rather than the person. They also help teams find common ground and shared goals and provide guidance and support if outside help is needed. 

By improving their self-awareness and leadership competencies, executives can improve their performance and the performance of their teams, leading to a positive impact on the entire organization. Choose Arden Coaching and take your team to the next level through effective conflict resolution.