The conflict, or the presence of discrepancies, is part of the life of any team. In fact a team would not exist without it nor life would not exist without chaos. So knowing that not only inevitable but also necessary, we will see how you can manage discrepancies in a work team.

We can define two types of discrepancy within a team:

Structural Discrepancies: Sooner or later a team undergoes a phase where the polarity or contradictions between its members on how to organize together is very present. In this phase that Tuckman called Storming occur episodes for power struggles and battles for influence and define the team structure. This is a phase where its members are facing the challenge of managing this crisis in order to ensure optimum future performance.

Operational Discrepancies: We can also see in teams operatives discrepancies that occur in the context of meetings or decision making. In these cases, these differences are the result of different needs or positions of its members in relation to their specific objectives within the area in which they operate and how they believe they must deal with them.

In both cases we must understand that the team is in front of a great opportunity to manage diversity and thus to learn to deal with these situations and to emerge stronger from them. If this happens in the future the team will know how to cope better and faster these crises that will come back.

 

Principles to Manage Discrepancies in the Team

 

As members of a team we must consider the following aspects in order to manage the conflict:

– Understand and make understand that the discrepancies are normal on a team. Team members must embrace the conflict as a mechanism for progress. Of course, their task will be to make constructive it, and so put destructive conflict aside. If really the whole team understands that discrepancies are part of the game in the present and in the future, the issues like blaming each other, defensiveness, stonewalling, or contempt will be minimized.

 

– Avoid voting. If discrepancies are necessary and make us see that diversity is something very positive, will be good not trying to manage the team systematically or accelerate the decision-making, if this entails weaken the team. More disparate positions imply that the process to reach consensus will be more complex and it can take longer. But whenever a team decides to vote to decide something, they are closing the door for knowing the concerns and needs of its members left in minority. So the concerns that are not resolved will again come to the fore in the future.

 

 

– Express oneself with transparency without any hidden agendas. Team members must create an alliance to share their concerns to the other members with relevant information to understand the global context. When this does not happen and hidden agendas appear, there will be an involution of trust among the group members, which will prevent to cope with what separates them.

– Express oneself as conciliatory without going into complacency. To manage the discrepancy among the members of a team with contrary positions, they must commit to being receptive to the ideas of others, but in the same time they must be loyal to their positions if they believe are the best ones for the team. When this does not happen because of passivity or excessive complacency of some of its members, the team loses an opportunity to grow. The evolution of a team will never come if a member gives up his vision for the simple fact that some members are more decisive with their positions, or have more range.

– Probing the needs of others. To start managing conflict is essential to understand the need to put oneself in the situation of people who see the issue differently. Hence, team members must be curious to understand in a deep way, the reasons why the others show determination for their positions. Nothing is irrelevant and in most cases, nothing is fight with the purpose to annoy the partner.

– Focus on commonalities. It will be hardly reach consensus positions if the team is not able to build bridges between the different existing visions. With the widespread certainty that the “absolute truth” does not exist, each party can understand that others also have their share of reason even in a partial way. At the end all are “partial truths”. That is why a high performance team is the one who can create connections or common spaces among its members to build a shared truth.

– Not associate discrepancies to people but situations. If we conclude that all team members wish, in most cases, the best thing for the team and for the organization in which they operate, we can easily understand that the opposite positions are manifestations of legitimate interests that often represent different needs present in the organization. Hence, it makes no sense to associate the discrepancy to the person or think that this is the originator of the conflict. Proof of this, is that often when the person is no longer part of a team the discrepancy still exist.

– Generate changes from the individuality, without waiting to see what others are doing. Usually the team members complain about the lack of harmony or about the low productivity, but they do not want to find solutions when they see others (or even worse, the boss) turn away. It is as if they have the perfect excuse to not to deal with it. Conflict management in the team at the end will be determined by the sum of the individual commitments regarding on what each member is willing to do to get it grow.

I hope you enjoy your team while you make it grow.

Enric Arola