Mediating Team Conflict

Anytime a group of people works together, there is bound to be conflict. Although low level conflict can actually be motivational and spur performance, high levels of conflict are likely to result in team gridlock, with no one being willing to move beyond their entrenched position. Responsibility for mediating conflict between team members usually falls to the team leader. Below are six steps that a team leader can take to mediate team conflict.

  • Make sure everyone is clear on the issue causing the conflict. If there is disagreement as to what is causing the conflict do not proceed until the issue is stated in a manner that all can agree is accurate.
  • Analyze the issue before solving. A root cause analysis consists of asking "why" seven times. Once the group has drilled down that far, they usually have a pretty good idea why the issue under debate exists.
  • Brainstorm action ideas. When brainstorming, suspend critical judgment. List every idea generated on a piece of newsprint whether or not the idea seems worthy of consideration.
  • Select ideas for action. Now is the time for critical judgment. As a group, weigh the pros and cons of each idea, and together select the actions that the majority feel will work to resolve the issue.
  • Write out an action plan. Capture what you are going to do, who is going to do it, and when it will be done by, so there is a document that holds everyone accountable for doing what they commit to do.
  • Evaluate the actions taken. Within 4-6 weeks of implementing the plan, the team needs to meet to evaluate the effectiveness of the actions taken to resolve the conflict. A team reward should be offered if the actions taken were successful in diminishing the conflict. If the issue has not been successfully resolved, steps 2-6 of this process can be repeated to analyze why the actions taken didn't work to diminish the issue, and to generate new ideas and plans towards resolving the problem.