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Introduction To Solving Conflicts in a Team, Part 1: On the 7 Common Types of Conflicts.

Updated on June 13th 2023

April 12th 2023

This text was fully written by humans.

Ontology Of Value Introduction-To-Solving-Conflicts-in-a-Team-1024x683 Introduction To Solving Conflicts in a Team, Part 1: On the 7 Common Types of Conflicts For Employers Management Tools and Strategies Self-management Tools and Strategies

SUMMARY / KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Conflicts are an inevitable part of any team project, as they can arise from a variety of sources, such as poor project planning, differences in opinions, personality clashes, or simple misunderstandings.

  • Solving conflicts in a team is one of the most powerful skills you can acquire as a professional, essential for achieving success in any collaborative work environment.

  • In this article, we introduce seven major sources of team conflicts and provide tips for how to prevent and resolve these various types of conflicts. This knowledge will help you recognize and resolve conflicts early, and live a happier and more successful professional life.

Solving Conflicts in a Team: An Essential Competence in Today’s Job Market.

Are you familiar with the story of Blockbuster, a video rental giant of the past? Founded in 1985, Blockbuster used to be the to-go-to place for renting video and DVD for over two decades.

In the early 2000s, the company had the opportunity to acquire a small yet ambitious DVD-by-mail service Netflix for just $50 million. However, Blockbuster’s executives declined the offer due to “concerns about the potential impact on their existing business model.”

This decision led to a conflict within the Blockbuster management team. Some executives believed that the company needed to invest in digital streaming technology to keep up with changing consumer preferences, while others believed that the traditional model based on the company’s physical stores was the key to their success in the market.

As a result, Blockbuster failed to adapt to the rapidly changing market, and its revenue started declining rapidly. Meanwhile, Netflix continued to innovate and invest in digital streaming, eventually becoming the leader of the video rental industry.

Ultimately, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010, while Netflix became one of the most successful media companies in the world. Today, all you can find from the Blockbuster team is a homepage in stealth mode and a still active Twitter account where the team ruthlessly makes fun of themselves and of their own failure in building a business.

This story highlights the importance of resolving conflicts within a team and the potential consequences of silencing the minority opinions. 

Indeed, solving conflicts in a team is one of the most powerful skills you can acquire as a professional, essential for achieving success in any collaborative work environment. Conflicts are an inevitable part of any team project, as they can arise from a variety of sources, such as differences in opinions, personality clashes, or misunderstandings.

In this article, we introduce seven major sources of team conflicts and provide tips for how to prevent and resolve these various types of conflicts. Even if you are not planning to become a Team Leader at work, this knowledge will still be useful in daily practice as it will help you recognize and resolve conflicts early, and live a happier and more successful professional life.

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7 Types of Conflicts In a Team.

1. Personality Clashes.

One of the most common types of team conflicts in a personality clash. These types of conflicts are caused by differences in personality profiles among team members, leading to varying natural working styles, susceptibility to stress, coping strategies, and expectations from work.

Some combinations of personalities are especially detrimental to the team dynamics. If multiple team members represent a type of a leader or a visionary, the team can easily get frozen due to power plays within the team.

The worst aspect of a personality clash is that, once it happens, the conflict often propagates escalates across the team. One psychological theory, namely the Heider’s balance theory, well explains this effect.

According to this theory, human conflicts propagate in a form of triangulation: if you are in good relations with two individuals but they dislike each other (Figure 1, case B), or if you dislike each other with two other persons (Figure 1, case D), it is an unstable system and sooner r later, one of the relations must flip.

Ontology Of Value The-balance-theory-2 Introduction To Solving Conflicts in a Team, Part 1: On the 7 Common Types of Conflicts For Employers Management Tools and Strategies Self-management Tools and Strategies
Heider's balance theory: human conflicts propagate in a form of triangulation.

Please read more about Heider’s balance theory here.

Personality clash is often a ticking time bomb which will only reveal itself under pressure — when the team is overwhelmed with the approaching deadlines or a highly responsible task. Therefore, recognizing personality clashes early is of primary importance. 

Of course, you won’t always get along with or like every person you meet, whether they are your colleagues, your boss, or a collaborator. It will always be a challenge to work with someone whose personality does not match yours and find a balanced position in a group, which will allow you for an optimal career development and without blocking anyone else’s development.

However, it is important to develop a work ethic that involves showing understanding to people whose values and temper differ from yours. To achieve long-term professional success, you will need to present integrity by learning how to work together peacefully and productively.

2. Communication Conflicts.

Yet another popular reason for team conflicts are communication issues, typically stemming from varying communication styles. This is why businesses invest billions of dollars in soft skills training for their employees every year.

Today, remote jobs and building multicultural teams have become a new norm. However, working in a multicultural environment requires putting effort into building effective communication.

Professionals coming from different backgrounds often exhibit different communication habits, from body language to addressing their bosses. As a consequence, what appears to be a neutral and direct message to the sender, can seem passive aggressive to the receiver.

And vice versa: what sounds like a request to the sender, might appear as an optional task to the receiver. For instance, the American expression “Could you please do it for me?” is an order, not a question.

Moreover, while some individuals have a natural ability to fluently communicate their needs and expectations, others need ground training in this domain as they cannot express their thoughts. This often concerns introverted employees who avoid talking in front of others during a heated discussion and prefer to stay silent.

For the aforementioned reasons, it is crucial to keep personal communication alive even if it means a Zoom call with a fully remote team. As humans, we have a natural ability to detect emotions and intentions from dynamic face expression and voice intonation.

Therefore, “boring” meetups often improve the communication in the team even if formally, they don’t lead to any new decisions and progress in the projects.

For the same reason, investing in Open Days or integration trips is popular among employers. Giving employees a chance to spend time together, play games, and chill in a group opens opportunities for increasing mutual understanding and syncing communication styles.

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3. Task-based Conflicts.

Task-based conflicts occur when team members must rely on each other to complete a task or project. It works like a domino effect: when one person on the team doesn’t complete their part of the task, it can affect another team member’s ability to finish their part on time.

For example, if an employee always turns in their reports late, it causes the accountant to be late with their reports as well.

In an ideal situation, the workflow should be organized in a way to prevent task-based conflicts, for instance, in the following ways:

  • In a workflow known as scrum, team members participate in daily standup meetings aiming to identify all the possible bottlenecks in the project at the moment so that no one on the team gets stuck.
  • Another way of preventing task-based conflicts is giving the team a buffer time so that in case of delays, the project is still successfully finished, and assigning mentors or advisors who can walk in when one of the team members is not able to proceed.
  • Lastly, task-based conflicts may occur because of poorly planned projects. For instance, a part of the project might be impossible to execute and pushing a team member responsible for this part of the project to proceed is just pointless. Building a culture of honesty where it is OK to openly say “this cannot be done” is essential to avoid this type of problems, especially in R&D which pivots around tackling new problems every day.

4. The Power Play: Leadership / Role Conflicts.

As Robert Greene introduces in his bestselling book “The 48 Laws of Power,” wherever you have 5 people or more, the power play begins — which results in leadership and role conflicts.

Many conflicts occur because the team leader represents the leadership style that doesn’t fit the team. There are at least seven main types of leaders identified in the management literature.

But in fact, every Team Leader has their own, unique way of leading their team — which results from a combination of their personality and professional experiences. Some leaders are directive, while others are more open, inclusive and encourage bottom-up initiatives in their team.

The problem starts if the leader cannot adjust their leadership style to the team dynamics. This often happens when the team spans across a few generations: from generation Z, through Millenials, to generation X and generation Y. Various generations present different attitudes to work and have different expectations toward leaders, which often results in misunderstandings.

To prevent leadership style conflicts, it’s important to recognize and appreciate these differences throughout the team. If you are in a management role, you should be aware of your own leadership style and how you interact with your team. It may be necessary to make adjustments to your leadership style to accommodate the different needs and personalities of your team members.

Leadership conflicts can also lead to conflicts over resources: these conflicts arise when team members have differing opinions about the allocation of resources, such as funding, equipment, or time. This can lead to competition, tension, and mistrust.

Lastly, the team can develop conflicts over roles and responsibilities which occur when team members have differing opinions about their roles and responsibilities, and how these should be allocated within the group. This can lead to never ending confusion, resentment, and frustration — and death of productivity.

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5. Work Style Conflicts.

Next, we have work style conflicts. Just as there are differences in personalities, there are differences in work styles as well. Work style conflicts occur because team members have different preferences on how to accomplish tasks. 

Some team members are naturally faster or more independent at work than others. Some work quickly and move on to the next task as soon as possible, while others prefer to complete tasks slowly and mindfully. Some people are self-starters who require little to no direction to finish a task, and others need guidance every step of the way.

The role of the leader is to lead the team to success in the project without judging who is overly productive and who is not: to recognize that everyone’s work style is different and find ways to collaborate to achieve the same goal despite those differences.

Remember that interpersonal differences in working styles are usually a combination of natural capabilities with former professional experience. For instance, most professional environments accommodate early birds rather than night owls, while a chronotype is a genetically conditioned biological trait and cannot be changed via training.

Professional background also plays a major role in developing a personal working style. For instance, let’s assume that an employee spent the past decade in academia where there are no fixed working hours (and most employees work around the clock…). 

Now, after this employee finds a position in consulting, it might be hard for them to fit into a fixed schedule as is done in consulting. Or, they will have hard time adjusting to deadline-based workflow where you often need to compromise on the quality of your work as their academic work ethic will be conflicted with prioritizing efficiency over quality. They will need a lot of time to rewire their brain and adjust to these new conditions. 

6. A Perished Apple.

And now, time for the elephant in the room. The problem in the team dynamics does not always stem from communication or leadership issues. Sometimes, one person in a team is a troublemaker — like a perished apple in a basket.

It might be hard to spot this person as they might be exhibiting one of many possible toxic behaviors: 

  • Gaslighting others behind the leader’s back,
  • Bullying or harassing colleagues,
  • Taking credit for other people’s work,
  • Complaining about the organization without taking action,
  • Sabotaging other people’s work and giving them unnecessary tasks,
  • Blaming others for their own mistakes,
  • Spreading detrimental rumors,
  • Drama queens,
  • Ignoring the leader’s requests and recommendations and encouraging others to do the same,
  • Overly competitive and overconfident. 

If you have a suspicion that you can have a perished apple in the team, the best strategy to detect this person is to ask the team members about their experience with other team members one by one. 

When comparing a number of independent, confidential testimonies it is easier to get the picture of who doesn’t get along with the rest of the team and why. And then give this person a chance to improve before relocating them beyond the team.

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7. Remuneration Conflicts. 

Lastly, ”if you don’t know what it’s about, it’s all about money.” Indeed, if there are some conflicts on your team whose source is hard to find, it might be beef about unequal or unfair remuneration. If some team members feel underpaid compared to the others, they might react with lowered motivation to work, negative emotions toward the better paid peers, or even quitting their jobs.

Organizations have their own policies regarding remunerating employees. While some organizations (typically, public institutions) are explicit and strict about their remuneration rules, others (typically, the private sector) offer competitive salaries based on prior experience and performance, and keep salaries confidential. 

In case an employee seems to be unsatisfied with his or her pay and feels undervalued compared to their team members, one needs to react by explaining their pay to them in a private meeting. 

You can motivate the employee by planning which courses, projects, and milestones should be taken to allow this employee to get a raise within the next 6 or 12 months. In either case, this problem should not be ignored as it can lead to an erosion of the whole team culture.

Conclusion: How To Recognize Conflicts in a Team?

Team conflicts are inevitable BUT one can reduce the probability that they will occur. In this article, we introduce seven major sources of team conflicts, along with tips on how to prevent and resolve them. 

We also provide tips on how to prevent and resolve these conflicts, such as recognizing personality clashes early, building effective communication in a multicultural environment, organizing workflow to prevent task-based conflicts, and building a culture of honesty to avoid poorly planned projects. Additionally, providing buffer time and assigning mentors or advisors can prevent task-based conflicts. 

To resolve leadership and role conflicts, it is important to encourage open communication and identify what leadership style works best for the team. 

Setting clear goals and objectives, using consensus-based decision-making, and acknowledging individual differences can prevent and resolve conflicts arising from unclear goals, resource conflicts, and individual differences.

Have you ever experienced a major conflict or your team? If so, how did you resolve it? Please share with us in the comments!

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Please cite as:

Bielczyk, N. (2023, April 12th). Introduction To Solving Conflicts in a Team, Part 1: On the 7 Common Types of Conflicts. Retrieved from https://ontologyofvalue.com/introduction-to-solving-conflicts-in-a-team-7-common-types-of-conflicts/

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