Handling Conflicts with Teams
Conflicts take place in all environments, be it personal or professional. Here we are going to investigate how we can see the signs of conflict and manage conflict in the workplace at a professional level when working in teams. I am sure we have all faced conflicts at our workplace and what’s important is – how did we manage it.
A lot of us tend to look at conflicts as a threat. The most important thing for us to acknowledge is that conflicts will occur, and we need to normalize it. It is OK to have conflicts. There is some level of effort that is needed to address conflicts in the best way possible without worsening the situation.
Another big question is “Who resolves the conflict?” Is there a particular person from the team who plays the role of a mediator and helps resolving it? However, the answer is, there is no single person who is solely responsible to resolving the conflicts in the teams. It is the entire team who should collaboratively come together to help resolve the conflicts and this is usually a key part of the ground rules for finding the causes of conflict.
However, in an agile team, the scrum master plays a vital role in coaching and mentoring the teams and supports in removing any impediments. He/she is the guardian of the scrum processes and ensures team adhere to it. If the teams can identify the origin of the conflict, usually they try to resolve it amongst themselves and look at each parties viewpoints. It however gets done under the supervision of the Scrum Master if the conflict is intensifying and becomes an impediment for the team.
Beyond Conflict Management, Let’s look at how conflict in the workplace can be resolved
Personal Coaching is one of the best ways to resolve conflict situations in any work environment. The Scrum Master plays a vital role here in the resolution process overall. They pay attention to the root cause and listen carefully to the challenge at hand. It is important in the first place for the Scrum Master to have good conflict management skills and be someone who’s decision making is trusted, as they will need a good relationship with the team members to be able to guide them through any impediments and simultaneously the teams should have a good relationship amongst themselves too.
Having one on one coaching conversations with the team members helps everyone be an active listener and understand their concerns and challenges that are being faced. One needs to give the teams time to try and resolve it on their own and figure out a way. But when there is a situation that the basic conflict is not going anywhere and impacting the productivity of the team, the Scrum master steps in with his or her problem solving expertise.
Here are 4 steps to help resolve conflicts and mentor the teams
One needs to start by understanding the root cause of the conflict before taking any actions. This know how is vital for all working relationships because acting on the conflict without understanding the root cause can worsen the situation and only suppress the problem even further – which in turn can reduce overall team performance. The Scrum Master uses an assertive approach to bring the team together to understand the root cause and improve the team or company culture overall, as clashes can often arise from something beyond the task and workflow overall.
Listening is an integral part here when gathering information about each type of conflict. Avoid going awry with your tone of voice, being judgmental of the people or situation at hand. Understand the challenges from the perspective of everyone involved, as everyone has different work styles and levels of teamwork historically in their experience. Remember to respect everyone’s point of view and create the safe environment where everyone feels heard and acknowledged.
The scrum master needs to help the team understand the conflict doesn’t just impact the people involved in the conflict but also the rest of the team. A common way to improve team building is making sure the team knows/understands each other, the skills, roles and tasks each person has and thus can pre-empt any task conflict.
Brainstorming to find common ground
In certain scenarios it might not be possible for the scrum master to provide the solution to the conflict. You can guide the team to come up with various solutions. This can happen with directing the conversation using various facilitation tools and techniques. You can ask powerful questions, having healthy debates, use hands on activities for brain storming which will help in hearing the quieter voices in the team too.
Deciding on the solution for employee conflict
Once you have brainstormed all the different ideas and inputs from the team, make a list of them which is visible to everyone. Have a discussion around those and ask the team which they would like to implement and come to a mutual understanding of moving forward. Encourage the teams to talk together and build trusts which would allow them to share openly and express themselves. Look out for potential sources of conflict and tones of voice that may raise issues.
The benefits of conflict resolution are that there is better understanding between the team members. They learn something new about each other as they move forward and learn to adapt and work better together. The trust level between team members improves which leads to better coordination. The teams become self-aware and also learn to respect each members way of functioning and learn to adapt to newer ways of working. Ultimately it leads to better productivity and happier teams.
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