Working in diverse teams
Working in diverse teams

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Working in diverse teams

3 Dealing with conflict

People don’t like to confront disagreement (Figure 3) as for most of this means an uncomfortable emotional encounter and something to be avoided.

Described image
Figure 3 Disagreement in the workplace

Activity 3 Experience of conflict

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

What has your experience of conflict been? Consider conflict that has arisen in teams and groups you have been part of, or even amongst your peers or family members. How do you tend to react to conflict and how does it make you feel? Ask yourself:

  • What conflicts have arisen in your team?
  • How have they been resolved?
  • What role do you play in resolving these conflicts?
  • What could you or others do to improve the team’s ability to deal with conflict?

Write your thoughts in the box below.

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Discussion

Well done for attempting this activity. You might have found it difficult, as just thinking about a conflict can make us feel uncomfortable.

It can be hard to work out what is going on in a conflict and you might have struggled to identify what your role was in helping to resolve the issue.

Did you manage to come up with any suggestions about how you could improve the teams ability to deal with conflict? You might have come up with suggestions such as talking to the other person when you and they are calmer, or listening to their point of view or avoiding the person you were in conflict with.

Even if you feel you did not deal with the situation very well it is good to reflect on this and consider what you might do in the future.

So, why is embracing and using disagreement an important team attitude? A team is a group of people who are working together to reach a common goal. The fact is that all the people in the team are going to be different, with different educational backgrounds, attitudes, experience, likes and dislikes. What may be important to you may not be important to another member of your team. Likewise, what is easy for you to understand may be confusing to someone else. However, it is actually these differences that make the team worthwhile. It is the very differences that cause conflict and disagreement about the way forward that enable the collective team experience to be of more value than one person doing the job on their own.

Activity 4  Responses to conflict

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

There tend to be four different responses to conflict and these can be characterised by: avoiding, accommodating, confronting and collaborating.

Most of have a response that they feel most comfortable with. Which response do you feel most describes your preferred style when dealing with conflict? In the table below type Yes next to your preferred style.

Table 3 Different responses to conflict

AvoidingYou wait the problem out and prefer to work around it or work alone.
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
AccommodatingYou seek support for your point of view but you go with the majority.
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
ConfrontingYou express your own views forcibly and directly.
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
CollaboratingYou take the lead in trying to get consensus. This can be seen as healthy conflict.
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Words: 0
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Discussion

Everyone has a preferred way in which to deal with things. All of these responses are valid and in different circumstances could be the best way to move forward.

Can you recognise times when you have had to step out of your preferred style in order to get the job done?

You may recognise that you have had different responses to conflict depending on who the conflict has been with. If there are good levels of trust between individuals then it can feel more comfortable to enter into conflict over differences of opinion or interests. This is as true in the team or group setting as it is between individuals and this tells us something about the different way that conflict may occur in different stages of group development.

Table 4 Forming, storming, norming and performing

FormingSuppress conflict and stress unity.
StormingTurbulent stage with conflicts over work, resources and goals.
NormingStarting to see healthy conflict as teams start to collaborate.
PerformingHealthy conflict with differences of opinion welcomed and encouraged.

Imagine trying to make a decision in a team which is actively trying to avoid disagreement and conflict. What do you think this would look like? You would see differences minimised or overlooked, creative ideas would be simply put aside as they were too difficult to negotiate and people who you know had something valuable to say would just stay quiet. Whilst this kind of team is effectively avoiding conflict it is not going to be as productive as the team that learns to deal with conflict effectively.

WDT_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371