Team Dynamics 



Avoiding the Pitfalls

Team members can do a lot of things to avoid conflict from happening throughout the process.

Being concerned with other's viewpoints: Other people have thoughts too just like us. Make sure that we are listening to them. Who knows, they might even have a better idea than us. Shutting a person off when they are trying to make a point may shut them off with future ideas also as well as creating contempt for the person/s not listening to them.

Deal with specific issues only: The leader must make sure that issues discussed are clear and the team doesn't start rambling off into other areas not issue related. This is very commonplace in team meetings when everyone is exited about problem solving. Don't bring sideline issues into the discussion or soon everyone is lost and conflict will happen.

Stick to the here and now: The leader cannot allow unpleasant issues from other areas into discussions. Failures of the past do not belong in discussions for future successes unless they have a positive value to reinforce direction. Also, no one should be allowed to bring in pcsrsonal issues of no relation to the subject at hand.

Disclose all pertinent information: Some members will have a tendency to withhold certain information to give them a little edge over others. This is converse to team playing and if discovered by the leader should be brought to their attention immediately. All known information must be shared with all. If we are a team we cannot leave others out from any knowledge that is necessary to accomplish the objectives.

Start with easiest to resolve issues first: If we pick issues that are easier to solve first it gives us a feeling of what success is like. We now have something under our belts that shows progress has been made. It's a great set-up to take on the issues that will take longer to solve and will perhaps be harder to accomplish. It's always best to be able to look back and feel that a certain amount of progress has already been made.

Handling Negative Conflict When It Occurs

There are five accepted methods for handling negative conflict when it does happen: Direct, Bargaining, Enforcement, Retreat and De-emphasis. Each will have a use in different circumstances.

Direct Approach

This method is perhaps the best of all. This concentrates on the leader handling the issue head-on and counts on their techniques of problem solving. It is always best to look at issues for what they are, even if they may be uncomfortable to deal with. The leader must make sure that when criticism is used in this area, though, that is highly constructive to the recipients. The direct approach normally leaves everyone with a sense of resolution because it doesn't hide any of the real issues. All issues must be openly discussed.

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Bargaining is an excellent technique when two or more people are both coming up with great ideas but yet cannot find common ground. It often takes a leader to find the compromise. Ownership of our ideas is very strong and when we're selling them ourselves we often don't look to the other persons ideas as an enhancement to ours. Compromise allows all parties to walk away EQUALLY DISSATISFIED! All players must give and take some in this method.


This method should be used only on rare occasion. It is dangerous and can often bring about hard feelings towards the leader and the team. This is the win/lose situation that we would like to avoid if possible. Enforcement would only be used when all other methods have failed. Most often this technique is only used when it is obvious that a member does not want to be a team player and refuses to work with the rest. In this case we may have to sacrifice one to save the whole. The normal recommendation here is that if enforcement has to be used on an individual it may be best for that person to find another team that they do like.


As terrible as the word sounds this is also a successful technique when used in the right environment. Retreat would be used when the problem isn't a real problem to begin with and the leader simply avoids it or works around it. Often these conflicts arise simply because someone had a bad day or night and they are introducing things that they would normally never do. These are normally emotionally driven and if any other technique were to be used they would simply inflate and then become a real problem that should have never happened. It takes an experienced leader to recognize these and work around them without slighting the individual/s that have brought them into the meeting.


De-emphasis is a form of bargaining but here we are looking for pure emphasis on the areas of agreement that the individuals are discussing. If they are locked only in areas of disagreement once they see that there are areas where they are complementing each other a new direction can now take place in the discussion. Teams don't normally like to disagree but they are deeply committed to their ideas so the leader must simply keep them on the right track and going in the same direction.

To say that a team leaders job is a tough one is certainly not saying enough. It is up to the team leader to manage a group of people to be individuals but yet work as a team. The team leader must keep the peace and yet create a revolution with this group all at the same time. The good leader will require a lot of education/training and tons of practical application to be a success.

The good news is, however, that the team leader's job is a rewarding one. One that they'll always feel good about if they do it right. How many of us get the opportunity to take a group of wonderful, thinking individual minds and pull from them ideas that a whole team can take to success? Yes, the job is indeed tough but the paybacks are many.


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