By Dr. Robert Gordon, CPC  |  05/16/2023


team conflict

Team conflict can often be a problem for the members of a classroom project.

I had a team project in every class of my graduate career, so I have become familiar with how to deal with conflict to get an assignment done on time.

I have also been the instructor in hundreds of classes with team projects, and I have seen a lot of conflict in those projects. However, as a student, there are various strategies to get people to want to work together, manage conflict, and avoid future conflicts.

Create a Good Team from Classmates That You Know Well

The first thing you should do to resolve a team conflict is to assemble a good working group in the first place - from people you know in the class.

That familiarity will allow everyone to get started quickly, focus on your assigned work, and avoid dealing with introductions and other preliminary communication.

Approaching the professor with an already prepared team is a great way to avoid conflict.

Workplace Conflict Management Skills

Throughout my academic and professional journey, I have honed my conflict management skills, which have been invaluable in resolving classroom and workplace conflicts.

It is crucial to recognize that conflict resolution is an essential aspect of maintaining a cohesive, productive group dynamic.

When differences arise, the key is to address them directly. It's important to take up a position that fosters communication and work collaboratively towards a solution for any differences of opinion that may arise.

Project Management

By being proactive and prepared to address potential personality conflicts, you can ensure your classroom remains focused on achieving your shared goals and delivering successful outcomes.
 
The same is true of teams in any workplace setting. For example, a project manager - regardless of his or her leadership style - is often asked to prevent conflict and ensure any differences are resolved properly within their respective teams.

Ensure Effective and Communication

If putting together a team of people you know well is not possible, start communicating with your group immediately.

Create an environment where all parties feel safe to voice their opinions without any fear of retribution from others.

Also, keep people talking to move the assignment forward. If you are in an online class, get people together on Zoom or Teams to communicate with each other.

A Well-Defined Conflict Resolution Strategy

As well as fostering communication, it is equally crucial to have a well-defined conflict resolution strategy in place for all classroom team projects.

Encourage team members to bring up any conflicts they might experience and emphasize that every conflict presents an opportunity for growth and learning.

In both online and offline settings, regular check-ins can be used to monitor conflict levels, discuss any arising issues, and find mutually acceptable solutions.

By incorporating conflict resolution as a core component of team communication and dedicating time to resolving team conflicts, the group is more likely to remain unified, engaged, and committed to the classroom project's success.

This proactive approach not only minimizes conflict-related disruptions but also encourages a culture of trust, respect, and collaboration among the teams and parties involved.

Make a List to Clearly Define Team Member Roles and Responsibilities

Sometimes, there will be occasions when people are not coming together or no one wants to volunteer for a task. Consequently, someone needs to start putting together a work list and assigning names to project tasks to be completed.

On this list, it’s important to define each team member's role and responsibilities, along with deadlines for the project’s tasks.
 
This detailed work list will prevent misunderstandings and conflicts arising from conflicting expectations. Distribute the work list it to everyone to avoid any confusion or task based conflicts.

Motivation and Keeping People Accountable for Their Deliverables

Maintaining and acknowledging clear deliverables will help your team members feel invested and motivated to work together to successfully complete the classroom project.

Also, it will keep people accountable for their actions – or lack of action. Be sure to keep this document of deliverables readily accessible and make sure that team members look at it regularly.

If the class project runs into trouble, and some people fail to get their tasks done on time, use this document to explain to the professor which team member owned each task.

Create a Collaborative Culture When Resolving Conflict

To avoid team conflict, team members must work to create a collective culture.

Emphasize the importance of each team member's contribution to the project's success and celebrate when work gets done and thank people for their efforts. A positive environment will go a long way to keep everyone working together.

Resolve Current Conflicts to Prevent Future Conflict

By focusing on the root cause of conflict, we can foster a better understanding among team members and ensure that disagreements are resolved constructively.

It's essential to emphasize the value of diverse opinions and skills, which can ultimately contribute to a more comprehensive and effective solution.

Developing strategies to further interpersonal working relationships and tackling conflicts head- on will strengthen the collaborative culture and maintain a healthy team dynamic.

Offer Positive Feedback to Build Camaraderie

Even when things get tough or when deadlines are missed during class projects, make sure to encourage positive feedback. Being snarky about turning in late work is never helpful for team members. But, remind people that a failure to complete the task they’ve been assigned might impact the overall project or someone else’s ability to get a task done.
 
On occasion, a student turned in inadequate, late work and I then had to spend time editing and fixing it.

However, in a classroom project setting, being rude and complaining never made that situation better. Try to encourage other people to build trust in other team members and foster a sense of camaraderie within the team.

Keep the tone positive. Most people know when they have done substandard work or missed a deadline. Repeatedly reminding them of their failure will not create a good work environment.

Many times, people push any team conflict situation aside and just hope it improves. However, failing to address conflict is tricky unless the person involved in the conflict voluntarily leaves the team.

If you’re a team leader, you might have to manage team conflicts and encourage team members to resolve conflicts through open, respectful communication.

Hold People Accountable For Their Actions

Be clear when you’re addressing the team conflict and hold people accountable for their actions. Expect people who have misbehaved to apologize. Apologies can go a long way; however, you must also get team members’ agreement on their future behavior.

Once the conflict is resolved, make sure that the team celebrates it; that's a great way to boost team morale, improve interpersonal relationships, avoid an uncomfortable work environment, and - of course - improve the whole team's performance. Common ground is vital for the appeasement of conflict situations.

Conflict affects everyone working on a classroom project - or any project. Remember that everyone has different working styles, different perspectives, emotional intelligence, and no one party - or one person - is ever in control over the other parties involved. Small disagreements often affect the whole team, so it's important to develop strategies and new ideas that focus on getting parties agreeing.

Resolving Conflicts and Strengthening Team Dynamics

In my experience with conflict resolution, it's essential that every person is involved in the process and has agreed on actions needed to remedy a disagreement. This allows every person to express their perspectives and work towards a mutual understanding.

By addressing the conflict head-on, we can minimize the likelihood of future conflict and encourage a cooperative environment.

Establishing Ground Rules is Crucial

Establishing ground rules for dealing with team conflicts is crucial, as it provides a clear framework for handling disagreements and sets expectations for appropriate behavior.

By embracing conflict and actively working towards resolution, for example, we're not only strengthening our team dynamics but also paving the way for continued success.

By addressing negative behaviors and resolving negative conflict in a timely and constructive manner, we can ensure that teams remain united and focused on achieving their collective goals.

Handling Team Conflict Will Help to Ensure a More Successful Classroom Project

Overall, creating effective team communication, clearly defining goals and roles, and building a collaborative culture can reduce team conflict and encourage teamwork.

However, if a team conflict happens on a class project, address it quickly, make sure people understand the results of what’s happening and resolve the conflict.

These strategies will be useful in ensuring that a class project is completed on time and to everyone’s satisfaction.

In my experience, honing conflict management skills is also essential to ensure team effectiveness when dealing with workplace differences.

Open Communication and a Conflict Resolution Strategy

Open communication is key - which means creating a safe environment for everyone to express their thoughts and feelings openly when conflicts occur - and then work to resolve them.

Having a "task conflict resolution strategy" in place is crucial in maintaining team performance, as it enables us to navigate any disagreement that arises effectively.

In workplace conflicts, it's important to address all team members individually, taking the time to listen to their concerns and needs.

Acknowledge and Validate Conflicts to Benefit The Entire Team

Acknowledging and validating their perspectives is critical to maintaining a healthy team dynamic. When a relationship conflict arises, it's vital to remember that the entire team's well- being and success should be the ultimate goal.

This mindset encourages collaboration and compromise, ensuring that conflicts are resolved in a manner that supports performance.
 
By consistently applying these techniques when conflicts occur, we can improve team performance, effectiveness, avoid interpersonal conflict, and minimize the negative impact of conflicts on our class projects.

Conflict Management is Key to Success

As we navigate through our academic and professional lives, managing conflict is an essential skill that can significantly impact our success.

By offering a positive, collaborative atmosphere, openly communicating, and actively addressing any differences as they arise, we not only ensure the timely completion of our class projects but also enhance our team's overall effectiveness.

Embrace Conflict As An Opportunity For Growth and Learning

Taking the time to listen, understand, and validate each member's perspective creates a healthy, inclusive dynamic that can lead to positive outcomes and greater innovation and achievement. Embrace conflict as an opportunity for growth and learning and see the positive impact it can have on your team's accomplishments.


About the Author
Dr. Robert Gordon, CPC
Dr. Robert Gordon, CPC, is a faculty member of the Reverse Logistics Management and Government Contracting and Acquisition programs at the University. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from the University of California, Los Angeles; a master's degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix; and a doctoral degree in management from the University of Phoenix. Dr. Gordon also holds graduate certificates in information technology project management, information technology security and logistics management from American Public University.

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