Teams And Conflict

Working in teams is a highly effective method for delivering superior project outcomes. This truism is reflected in most organisational structures. Research and everyday experience confirms the strength, creative nature and achievements that can only be attributed to teamwork.

However, most teams are not naturally successful. Without a sense of identity and purpose and a blue print for success, teams can be a major breeding ground for conflict. 

chess board and chess pieces

Under-performing teams do not always realise just how much more effective they can be and often they slip into the complacency of accepting mediocrity in the standard of their deliverables and their relationships with each other.

Whether you are a team member or team leader, if you sense that your team:

  • is in conflict;
  • is not delivering projects on time; or
  • could be producing work of a higher standard,

When it is time to engage a Workplace Conflict Resolution facilitator to help the team review and analyse where they are currently, where they need to be and how they can move forward with an achievement orientation.

A specialist Workplace Conflict Resolution facilitator will support team members to better understand themselves and each other, revise (and if necessary develop new) individual and team roles, responsibilities and accountability measures and create an agreed team vision and team code of behaviour.

Workplace Conflict Resolution can also provide coaching for your organisation’s team leaders. This coaching program aims to equip leaders with the skills to minimise conflict and effectively guide their teams based on the Workplace Conflict Resolution 12 steps to success’ team model.

Do your managers know a “squeaky wheel” when they see one?

Managers who view certain employees as “critical”, without questioning their actions or their motives, could be putting the livelihood of their teams at risk, according to Workplace Conflict Resolution director Catherine Gillespie.

Although Gillespie doesn’t like using the term “squeaky wheel” to describe people who “make a lot of noise” and stop their team from running smoothly, she says that correctly identifying these individuals is important, and that failing to do so can have disastrous consequences.

Most managers agree that identifying high performers and giving them the attention they need to stick around is important, but “squeaky wheels” need attention too, Gillespie says – not because they’re likely to leave but because they’re likely to cause conflict which can, among other things, drive high performers away.

To further complicate matters, sometimes squeaky wheels can be mistaken for critical employees.

“I have seen what havoc can be caused when a manager misinterprets one of their team members as ‘critical’ when in fact that team member is a ‘squeaky wheel’,” she says.

The problem can arise when a squeaky wheel convinces their manager they are critical to the team’s success, when really they are compromising it.

“It creates conflict and can create huge divisions,” says Gillespie, noting that the consequences can include poor performance and subsequently workers’ compensation disputes.

Don’t isolate performance from behaviour

“When we’re talking about critical people in the team, it does need to be looked at from both the perspective of performance and behaviour,” Gillespie says.

“Somebody may perform well, but their behaviours may be subtly not supportive of the team, or they may be negative or unconstructive in some way.

“They may appear critical because of what they offer to the manager in terms of getting work done and the experience and knowledge that they have, but they’re not [critical] in terms of the behaviours that they display.”

She says managers need to be on the lookout for manipulative and divisive behaviour and, in particular, need to beware of allowing themselves to be manipulated.

Are you being manipulated?

When squeaky wheels make noise, it needs to be addressed, but managers should avoid getting caught up in addressing the noise itself rather than the actual cause, Gillespie says.

“Some squeaky wheels can be very clever,” she says. Their “noise” comes across as being logical and rational, so managers feel obliged to take notice.

“I think that misinterpretation is more likely to happen if a manager is not checking in with all staff regularly and watching their behaviour and their performance,” she says.

“It could be that [the manager is] remote in terms of office locations, or just that their offices are separate from others in the workplace and they’re not making an effort to be mixing in that workplace location and seeing for themselves what’s going on.

“I think misinterpretation can also happen when [the squeaky wheel has] been able to build rapport with the manager, because they’ve already ticked the boxes in terms of work performance, experience and knowledge. They’ve also latched on to the fact that this manager is having difficulty with other squeaky wheels. So they aligned themselves with the manager in wanting to point out the problems and the difficulties with all the other squeaky wheels in the team, and built rapport with the manager in this way.”

Gillespie has seen cases where this has happened, and warns HR to be aware of the possibility that managers will allow themselves to be persuaded in such ways.

“Allowing that sort of rapport to be built; giving so much weight to that person’s opinion, and allowing it to influence your opinion, does then mean the manager is more susceptible to telling that person more information than they should know, and is more susceptible to be influenced by that person rather than keeping independent,” she says.

Related item – Follow this link for an article in ‘hrdaily’ about Workplace Conflict Resolutionand Do your managers know a squeaky wheel when they see one? . (Free registration is required on the site to read the full item).


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