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Resolving conflict in a team who don’t get on.


Hi there

I have been asked to help a team who aren't getting on with each other. They have all previously done SDI, so have an understanding of different interpersonal styles, and what triggers conflict in others etc. However, this insight doesn't appear to be helping! I am having a meeting with their team leader next week to understand specifically what is going on within the team, and have said that once I have spoken with him, we can then do some follow up work with the group as necessary.

The thing is, I have little experience in this area! What should my next steps be? If we do bring the whole group together to thrash this out, has anyone got any suggestions on how to go about it without making the situation worse or having it turn into a backstabbing session??
Helen Wyatt

5 Responses

  1. Something to consider …
    Hi Helen, you may have already thought of this but just in case … perhaps the conflict here can’t be easily sorted out with a training course as there may be something more fundamental. It’s worth asking about any significant events which have taken place during the past year or so. Have people within the team been promoted which might be viewed as unfair by others? Have they discussed salary details and found some inconsistencies? Do they feel some team members are being treated more favourably than others? I came across an unhappy team which was being made to carry a weaker team member who didn’t have the skills to fully carry out their tasks and consequently, some workloads increased whilst hers gradually decreased. No wonder they were unhappy. By all means proceed with your meeting with the team leader but might be worth bearing in mind that this goes rather deeper than originally thought. 🙂

  2. A more direct approach?

    SDI is one of those tools that really helps to hold a mirror up to people’s and teams’ behaviour, but if the insights gleaned from it haven’t helped then a more direct approach might be needed.

    I wonder whether the team leader thinks that this is a training issue that can be resolved with ‘some follow-up work’, rather than a leadership issue for him to resolve for himself.

    After all, he is their manager, and it’s his responsibility ultimately to ensure that the team functions well. Because of this, he may need to give the team some specific feedback on the inappropriate behaviour that he has seen, and some rules that the team should behave by in future.

    My advice would be to treat your meeting with him as a coaching session, to help him to work through how he can address the conflict within the team and give them the direction that they need.

  3. Dealing with Conflicts
    Hi Helen,

    This is always a tricky area to deal with, especially when knowing how successful teams operate in theory is not working out in practice.

    In order to move forward, the team members have to recognise that things could be better. An approach I have successfully used is to first get the team to describe how ‘ideally’ they would like it to be within the team in terms of attitudes, behaviour towards each other, processes etc. Naturally this does require some skilful facilitation to tease things out. Next, having established their ‘ideal’, get them to describe how they think it is now. Having established this, it is for them to then decide just what has to happen to move from where they are now, to where they would like to be.

    I think it is important that the team members come up with potential solutions and not necessarily the team leader. I also think that it is up to them to take some responsibility for changing things. If the team come up with potential improvements they are likely to be far more committed to making it happen than if the boss tells them what’s going to happen

    One of the potential difficulties though with this approach is that you will not really know what issues are likely to arise. It maybe that there could be some criticism of the team leader and he needs to be prepared for that and respond appropriately. However, it’s better that these issues are out in the open. Only when this happens can issues be effectively dealt with. hence the skilful facilitation I referred to earlier.

    Hope this helps and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you think I might be able to help further


    Brian Perry
    [email protected]
    Tel: 01327 844634

  4. Study on emotions
    Excellent advice given by all of course. Just to add that you may also need to focus on finding out the root cause of the problem, but you want to do this in a structured way. This means keeping the sessions factual rather than emotional. What you can do is to explain this before the gathering much like a training on “what not to say when you are upset” and then proceed with the discussion.

    Many studies show that emotions (either negative or positive) accumulate the more you use them. For example if you are upset, “crying it out” is the worst thing you can do because it simply make you more upset. You need to do the opposite to get out of that state.

    By stating the theory behind this before the session, you will effectively disarm them from turning the session into a “blaming contest” and instead try to focus on solving problems. In these situations, until the root cause is addressed, not much progress will take place and that can only happen if everyone simply talks what they have in their mind, peacefully.

    Hope this helps.

    Training Material & Resources

  5. Mediation?
    Have you considered a mediation session? This could be provided by either an internal or external provider.


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