Guide

Managing conflict

Conflict between groups and individuals in the workplace

Conflicts in the workplace could occur between individuals or groups.

Workplace conflict between individuals

Conflicts in the workplace may arise between individuals because:

  • of a clash of personalities, difference of opinion, bullying or harassment
  • of an aggressive or weak management style
  • some employees may feel others are treated more favourably

Managing conflict between individuals.

Workplace conflict between groups

Conflict in the workplace may arise between groups because of:

  • team rivalry, disagreements or resentment
  • a 'them and us' mentality between large groups of employees and their managers
  • resentment of senior management, poor morale, low motivation, disagreement over pay, health and safety, redundancies and lack of proper consultation

Groups: patterns of behaviour

Groups of people in a team tend to display a certain pattern of behaviour. Four distinct phases of a group or team's development are:

  • Forming - as the team or group begins to form, there is a gradual growth of personal exchange and contact. People seek to find out about one another, wanting to uncover attitudes, values and style. This process continues until each person makes a decision concerning the character of his or her involvement. At this stage, the team may appear to be acting effectively, progressing with its tasks and forming what seems to be a friendly comradeship between members. However, usually this condition doesn't run deep.
  • Storming - at this stage the team has to decide how it is going to operate. All too often this is done by team members jostling for position with little explicit planning. On other occasions the atmosphere will get tense as 'real' challenges are made. The most important aspect at the storming stage is control; how control is exercised and who controls the team. The team must settle the control issues if it is to proceed successfully.
  • Norming - following the successful resolution of the issues surrounding control, relationships and role, the team begins to operate within the agreed levels. People will begin to want to work with others in the team, respecting the roles and contribution of key members. This is an important stage because the team needs the support and interest of all members. Otherwise the team will fail to grow stronger and often reverts back to the storming stage at the first sign of difficulty.
  • Performing - the members of a fully established team develop rapport and closeness following the rules they have created. Team members are prepared to extend themselves for their colleagues and real enjoyment of the task at hand is typical. Infomality is often a keynote of a team at this stage, but it is based on positive regard for each of the other team members and the rules of engagement. There is a strong feeling that others would be willing to help if needed. Roles of team members have been identified and each person's contribution is distinctive.

Managing conflict between groups.