Team Conflict and Resolution in the Workplace

In today’s world individuals in the workplace are often asked to work in teams. Working in teams can be one of the best ways to find creative and innovative solutions to the complex issues of running a company. Often, teams are comprised of a

variety of individuals with different cultural and emotional backgrounds. A team’s diversity can be one of its greatest assets, when understood and employed properly. However, what was intended to be a positive and, ultimately, a profitable team can be left “dead in the water” if the team is not able to communicate effectively. A solid understanding of a team’s different individual communication styles will lead to successful positive conflict resolution.

People communicate in various ways. One individual in a group may use a bold direct way of communicating, while another individual in the same group may prefer a more subtle way of expressing ideas. It is important to understand that neither way is always wrong or better than the other. They are simply preferences of different individuals. Learning the communication preferences of the individual group members can be one of the most successful conflict resolution tools that a group can possess. According to Rahim, there are five different communication or conflict styles. (Gross & Guerrero 2000)

One style of communication is called Integrating Style. (Gross & Guerrero, 2000)The individual with this style of communication faces conflict while engaging others in the resolution. For instance, this individual will try to find new and creative ways to solve a problem by making analytical statements or soliciting statements from other group members. Individuals with Integrating Style will try to find resolution to conflict by opening the lines of communication. This individual will also try to keep the team’s positive relationships intact for future group interactions. Often, people who use Integrating Style are thought of as facilitators of effective and cooperative resolutions to conflict. However, Integrating Style individuals may not be very effective when it comes to resolving production or organizational related goals.

Dominating Style is another method that individuals use to communicate. (Gross & Guerrero, 2000) Individuals who use this method of communication are usually very direct, aggressive and, uncooperative. Often, the individual who uses this communication style usually relies on his or her position of power to intimidate or force the desired behavior out of other team members. This style can be successful when it comes to meeting production related goals but this style is not normally very effective on a personal level. An individual who uses Dominating Style uses threats, accusations, presumptive remarks, and verbal dominance to achieve goals.

Individuals who put other people’s needs before his or her own use a communication style called Obliging Style. (Gross & Guerrero, 2000) Other group members often think of the individual who uses this style as very cooperative yet passive. This style is usually only effective when the individual using Obliging Style does not particularly care about the issue or conflict at hand. Obliging Style individuals usually “give in” before any major conflict arises. This method does not normally facilitate creative group collaboration. When a person uses Obliging Style he or she does not normally reach his or her individual goals, which could cause that individual to feel edgy or ignored.

Another style that individuals use to communicate is called Avoiding Style. (Gross & Guerrero, 2000) The individual who uses Avoiding Style withdraws either physically or emotionally from the conflict. Often, this individual will use variety of methods to avoid or deny the conflict, such as, making irrelevant remarks, jokes, changing the topic, or by being indirect. This communication method can be very frustrating to other members of the group who want to converse and discuss problems openly. Quite often, when individuals are not able to communicate their actions become increasingly withdrawn and cold.

However, this interaction method can be very successful when it comes to conflict that cannot seem to be resolved to either party’s satisfaction and discussing the issue further only makes matters worse.

The last communication style, according to Rahim, is called Compromising Style. (Gross & Guerrero, 2000) Finding “middle ground” and offering quick, short-term solutions are typical behaviors for individuals with Compromising Style. Other group members often perceive the individual with this style as reasonably accommodating and direct. However, using Compromising Style usually means that most or some of the individual’s needs are met, but certainly, not all. Yet, compromise can be one of the best solutions to conflict when neither party can join forces in creating a solution that satisfies each of his or her needs.

With an understanding of these various communication or conflict styles individuals can recognize the typical methods used by the different members of the team. Recognizing the different individual’s communication or conflict resolution styles leads to understanding and can also maximize the group’s problem-solving effectiveness. (Broome, DeTurk, & Kristjansdottir, 2002) If the people within the group know what individuals are most likely to use particular styles of communication or conflict resolution, then, when conflicts arise it will easy to tell which individual within the team has the most appropriate method for that particular problem. Of course, each problem or conflict is different. Therefore, the most appropriate method of communication can be different depending on the problem at hand. For example, an individual with Dominating Style and an individual with Avoiding Style might not be the best team in terms of partnership and integration of ideas. While, an individual with Compromising Style and an individual with Obliging Style are more likely to combine ideas and achieve the majority of the goals for each individual.

Without an understanding of effective communication, teams are often unable to solve conflict, capitalize on individual team member’s communication strengths, or comprehend communication weaknesses. The various communication styles discussed can be an excellent tool for teams. The understanding of communication methods can help members within a group recognize their own tendencies as well as the inclinations of other team members. It is through a knowledge and understanding of positive communication that teams will have the ability to effectively resolve conflicts and, ultimately, be a successful team.


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Gross, Michael A., & Guerrero, Laura K., (2000). Managing Conflict Appropriately & Effectively: An Application of the Competence Model to Rahim’s Organizational Conflict Styles. International Journal of Conflict Management, Volume 11, Issue 3. Retrieved on October 29, 2006, from ProQuest database.

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