Conflicted About Conflict?

“An assessment of the organization’s ability to adjust to the team concept before you start” is the key factor in any organizations ability to utilize teams effectively.   Everything else that goes into making a team effective, leadership, talents and abilities, communication, planning, training, personnel’s strengths, weaknesses and values, standards and expectations hinges on the openness to the idea that conflict is why they are there, that friction will increase within the operation of that team and that that is what drives a ideas, creativity, knowledge, understanding and problem solving.

Conflict is a natural outcome of teamwork. Evans and Alire, when talking about teams, states, “They require that you accept the idea that conflict (both positive and negative) is a normal part of team operations and that those conflicts must be addressed in an open and honest manner” (p. 342). Friction is required to move a team forward. Without conflict there is stagnation.   It is how conflict is met that determines whether a resolution will be obtained or a faction established. But it is conflict that causes change, good or bad.

“Conflict management works best when the parties involved in a disagreement are equipped to manage it themselves” (Weiss & Hughes, 2005, 93). It is often that members of an organization or team avoid conflict to maintain the peace. There may be a fear of reprisal, a tendency to “lone wolf” (Steiner, 2014) solutions or a host of other factors that contribute to unresolved conflict. Unrecognized or unresolved conflict results in low morale, decreased productivity, and poor job satisfaction.   Changing the organizational culture to understand and value conflict as part of growth and success it the key to implementing teams on both large and small-scale ventures.

This requires continued education and training at the individual, departmental and organizational levels.

It is interesting that libraries, many of whose mission is life long learning, are so resistant or hesitant to or ineffectual in implementing teams at the organization’s operational level.  Teamwork and collaboration are hallmarks of the services libraries provide and yet “there are not a significant number of libraries where teams are the primary organization pattern” (2013, 359).

Virtual teams are even more exposed to conflict as time and distance add to the challenge of collaboration. Because of time differences there will be scheduling challenges that may seem unfair. Distance means possible language and cultural hurdles. This increases the chance of conflict, through communications, that are highly susceptible to miscommunications. So joining collaborative environments virtually heightens the necessity of understanding and accepting that conflicts are inherent in collaboration and are a propellant to success rather than a barrier.

Evans, G.E., & Alire, C.A. (2013). Management basics for information professionals (3rd ed.).  New York: Neal-Schuman.

Steiner, V. (2014).Online teamwork[Web]. Retrieved from http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/courses/203/personal/teamwork.htm

Weiss, J., & Hughes, J. (2005). Want collaboration? Accept and actively manage-   conflict. Harvard Business Review, 83(3), 92-101. Retrieved http://from hbr.org

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