Understanding Conflict and Conflict Management
 

Definition
A team is a small group of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.1 Although student teams may not satisfy all the requirements of the definition, the degree to which they do often determines their effectiveness.

Rationale
"Students do not come to school with all the social skills they need to collaborate effectively with others. Therefore, teachers need to teach the appropriate communication, leadership, trust, decision making, and conflict management skills to students and provide the motivation to use these skills in order for groups to function effectively."2 Faculty must take responsibility to help students develop their skills to participate on and lead teams.

Introduction
Students bring different ideas, goals, values, beliefs and needs to their teams and these differences are a primary strength of teams. These same differences inevitably lead to conflict, even if the level of conflict is low. Since conflict is inevitable, one of the ways in which faculty members can help students improve their abilities to function on multidisciplinary teams is to work with them to develop their understanding of conflict and their capabilities to manage and resolve conflict. To this end, this document addresses the following questions:

What is conflict and conflict management?

Why learn more about conflict and conflict management?

How do people respond to conflict?

What modes do people use to address conflict?

What factors can affect our conflict modes?

How might you select your conflict management style?

How might you apply this information?

Summary

References for Further Information

  1. Katzenbach, J.R., and Smith, D.K. (1992). Wisdom of teams, Harvard Business School Press.
  2. Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T., and Holubec, E.J. (1986). Circles of learning: cooperation in the classroom (rev. ed.), Edina, MN: Interaction Book Co.
  3. “Workplace Basics: The Skills Employers Want,” Am. Soc. Training and Devel. and U.S. Dept. Labor, Employment and Training Admin., 1988.
  4. Algert, N.E. (1996) “Conflict in the workplace” in Proceedings: Women in Engineering Advocates Network, Denver, CO., 123–127.
  5. Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA: (800)624-1765 or available on the World Wide Web at http://www.cpp-db.com.
  6. Smith, K.A. (2000). Project management and teamwork. New York: McGraw-Hill BEST series.
  7. Blake, R.R., and Mouton, J.S. (1964). The managerial grid. Houston: Gulf Publishing Co.
  8. Algert, N.E., and Watson, K. (2002). Conflict management: introductions for individuals and organizations. Bryan, TX: (979)775-5335 or e-mail cccr@bigfoot.com.
  9. Raudsepp, E. (2002) “Hone Listening Skills To Boost Your Career,” available on the World Wide Web at http://www.careerjournal.com/myc/climbingladder/20021224-raudsepp.html, accessed on 28 January 2003.
  10. Lambert, J., and Myers, S. (1999) 50 Activities for conflict resolution. Amherst, MA: HR Development Press.
  11. Johnson, D.W., and Johnson, F.P. (2000) Joining together: group theory and group skills (7th ed.), Boston, Allyn and Bacon.
Additional Resources
Algert, N.E. (2002). The center for change and conflict resolution, Bryan, TX: (979)775-5335 or e-mail cccr@bigfoot.com.
Moore, C., “How Mediation Works” in The Mediation Process: Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict.
Putnam (1994). “Beyond third-party role: disputes and managerial intervention,” Employee Responsibilities and Rights J. (7:1).
Xicom, Inc. (1996). Conflict Workshop Facilitator’s Guide.