Teaching and Learning with Technology

Building Blocks for Teams



Student Tips

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Why Teams?

Roles

Meetings

Communication

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Bad Behaviors

Conflicts

Conflict Resolution Tips

This Page

  1. Conflict Happens
  2. Clarify Expectations
  3. Types of Conflicts
  4. Identify Team Needs
  5. Depersonalize Conflict
  6. Structuring Discussion
  7. Key Questions

I. Conflict Happens

Most members of a team have to learn two fundamentals:

  1. Having different opionions is one of the essential benefits of teamwork.
  2. Team members have strong feelings and emotions. A team cannot achieve its full potential if all that is allowed is logic or information.

Fortunately, it is possible to take steps to minimize disagreement and conflict and to resolve those disagreements that may be dangerously escalating.

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II. Clarify Expectations

Stating expectations clearly will give the team a common ground to begin any discussion. Some ways to clarifying expectations include:

  1. Developing a clear statement of team mission or purpose
  2. Ground rules governing participation, sharing of responsibilities
  3. Agreement to depersonalize conflicts
  4. Team recognition that team process, including discussion and brainstorming, is important to results and needs regular attention
  5. Use of structured processes for problem solving and conflict resolution
  6. Awareness of stages of project development and maintenance priorities of each stage
  7. Clearly and appropriately defined individual responsibilities for real work for each other; clear linkage between individual responsibilities and the team mission
  8. Clearly defined project standards and time lines

If conflict escalates, the following tips may help the team resolve disagreements in a step-by-step manner.

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III. Identify the Type of Team Conflict

Internal conflict - An individual or team member is experiencing a personal
conflict that may or may not be related to the team, but which is interfering with the person's ability to perform.

Individual conflict with one other team member - One team member is in
conflict with another

Individual conflict with the entire team - One team member is experiencing
conflict with the entire team

Conflict between several team members - The entire team is experiencing
conflict with several other team members

Conflict between teams - The entire team is in conflict with another team

Team conflict with one person outside of the team (such as a faculty member or
GA responsible for content)

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IV. Identify Team Needs

Define the team's problem as a shared need. As a group:

  1. Identify the causes.
  2. Determine the criteria for a solution.
  3. Generate options.
  4. Determine possible solutions.
  5. Develop implementation plans.
  6. Review results later on a regular basis.

At this step, it is especially critical that every member of the team provide his or her view.

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V. Depersonalize Team-Internal Conflict

During the problem-solving phase focus on issues not personalities. Use these guidelines to help depersonalize conflicts.

  1. Encourage each side to objectively explain his or her bottom line requirements. When the team is determining a solution, each person's criteria should be evaluated.
  2. Remind the team of ground rules while generating options such as "no
    criticizing statements by other people until all ideas are posted."
  3. Encourage everyone to listen to other points of view.
  4. During the process keep encouraging points of agreement.
  5. Don't stifle new anger, but also don't dwell on it.

Another set of steps to consider as a team:

  1. Acknowledge that the conflict exists.
  2. Gain common ground.
  3. Seek to understand all angles.
  4. Attack the issue not each other.
  5. Develop an action plan.
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VI. Structuring Discussion

Here is a structured way to handle conflicts:

  1. Let each person state his or her view briefly.
  2. Have neutral team members reflect on areas of agreement or disagreement.
  3. Explore areas of disagreement for specific issues.
  4. Have opponents suggest modifications to their own points of view as well as others.
  5. If consensus is blocked, ask opponents if they can accept the team's decision.
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VII. Key Questions

Questions that can help teams work through conflict:

  1. What are we supposed to accomplish as a team?
  2. What are each of our roles and responsibilities in accomplishing that goal?
  3. Who and when do each of us need to get information from?
  4. If we get into trouble, whom can we ask for help?
  5. How will we arrive at decisions?
  6. What strengths do each of us bring in accomplishing our goals?
  7. How are we going to make ourselves more accessible to one another?
  8. What are we doing that is blocking the resolution of this problem?
  9. How can we express differences without blaming others?
  10. Which behaviors are unproductive? How can we help individuals take ownership of their unproductive behavior. Don't excuse a team member when he or she behaves badly.
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