Team Work: How to work through conflict

March 11, 2016  |   Found in Editorial

Working in a group can be very daunting, questions such as whether or not you’ll like the others or if you’ll be able to work together effectively are some common fears that make teams and groups scary. However, group/team work can be very beneficial and rewarding when everyone is able to work effectively together and make an idea come to life.

What I am going to talk about is working through conflict when it arises. There are two types of conflict that can arise. Constructive conflict and negative conflict. Constructive conflict is very good for getting and forming ideas. Being able to discuss, deny, and build up ideas can allow some amazing work to come out, as long as everyone is respectful and doesn’t insult anyone’s ideas or thoughts. When ideas start being attacked and shot down, that’s when conflict can be detrimental.

When this happens working in a team or group as a team can be very hard and feel almost impossible. People feel disrespected when their idea is disrespected or they feel that they are not able to speak up in the group. When it gets to this point people will not feel inclined to give their all to an idea, or many times the team will no longer be able to keep working together.

I remember specifically in one of my classes where one day two group members got into it. The matter was dropped very quickly but their argument had a lasting affect that we realized needed to be quashed very quickly. One thing we realized in this situation was that it didn’t matter who was wrong or right, we needed to get back to a point where the group could keep performing to complete our assignment. For this reason, one of the members apologized to the other the next day so that the team could carry on with its tasks unhindered. There was definitely tension in the air sometimes, however we all made it a point to not go there again and respect and listen to one another’s position, even though everyone may not have agreed to it.

One of the biggest things I learned from this conflict was that all anyone wants it to be heard. Some may do that by being loud, others by putting themselves “in charge”, but if everyone from the very first day of getting together agrees that all idea’s will be heard, no idea will be shot down in the moment, and all decisions will be made as a team (especially in groups at university) more uniformity in the team will be created right away. Also, make a conscious decision to listen to everyone’s idea, this includes asking the quieter team/group members for their thoughts and ideas. You don’t have to harass them to get an idea or thought but what I have noticed is that if you start by asking them if they have any input they will start to feel more comfortable in the team/group and will naturally start to integrate themselves into discussions and taking up tasks.

In the end the best way to avoid or work through conflict is through communication. Be open, come up with rules about how to deal with conflict as a team/group, respect each other’s ideas and thoughts, encourage others to speak up, but always be respectful.


Originally published Mar. 11, 2016.

Harmeet K. Jaswal is a 3rd year business student. She is a vegetarian and food enthusiast, as well as a planner addict. In her spare time she likes to watch YouTube videos on planning.