Applying the preceding information about the five different modes of conflict management, factors affecting models of conflict management, and processes for selecting one or more approaches to conflict within the context of a student team involves increasing the awareness of the each of the team members about the way the other team members view conflict and how the other team members approach conflict. There are two basic types of team activities.
• In the first type of team activity, individual team members learn more about their perspectives and approaches to conflict through either individual reflection or appropriate instruments. Then, the individuals share with their team members what they have learned.
• In the second type, the team engages in an activity that simulates a hopefully low level of conflict. Then, the team reflects about its actions, learns from its experiences, and develops ways to address conflict more constructively in the future.
The following examples provide suggestions for possible team activities.
Collaborating with Different Individual Conflict Modes
Ask each member to complete the exercise on the preceding page in which she/he identifies their primary mode of conflict management. Then, ask each individual team member to share her/his own primary mode of conflict management and to provide examples that illustrate that mode. Next, ask the team to identify potential strengths for the combination of different styles and potential problems that might arise with the combination of conflict management modes. Finally, ask the team to develop strategies to minimize potential problems and build on their strengths.
Developing a Positive Team Perspective about Conflict
Start with the individual reflection exercise on the preceding page in which each member writes the word conflict and associates different words or phrases with conflict. Then, ask each member to share the insights she/he learned through the individual reflection. Next, ask the team to take all of the positive associations with conflict and combine them together to construct positive ways in which the team might view conflict. Finally, ask the team to take all of the negative associations with conflict and devise ways in which the negative associates might be eliminated or minimized.
Developing a Consensus Decision
In this book on Teamwork and Project Management,6 Karl Smith asks teams to rank fifteen causes of death in the United States in terms of their frequency of occurrence. Similar exercises on ranking items most required in desert or space survival exercises are available at http://www.eas.asu.edu/~asufc/teaminginfo/teams.html or in Joining Together11 by Johnson and Johnson (Exercise 8.3 Stranded in the Desert, Exercise 8.4 Who should get the penicillin?, Exercise 8.5 Fallout Shelter). These types of exercises can stimulate team development in several ways. One of the ways is to provoke a low level of conflict within the team and to learn from its experience. After completing the exercise, the team can debrief its performance. The team might address several questions. What were the positive aspects in the way we handled conflict? How did our various modes of conflict management help our performance? How did our various modes of conflict management hinder our performance? How might we improve the ways in which we managed conflict within our team?
Improving intrateam communication can reduce the likelihood of conflict and increase the chances for faster, more effective management of conflict when it occurs. The Foundation Coalition has prepared a summary on Effective Interpersonal/Intrateam Communication that may provide helpful information and activities.
Suggestions for Further Activities
The book, 50 Activities for Conflict Resolution,10 contains 25 activities for team-development on conflict. Several of the activities are role-play, conflict scenarios that provide opportunities for teams to determine the"‘best" intervention style for the conflict at hand.