The organization under analysis is a large hospital that provides services to people from different ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The hospital commonly uses teams of healthcare professionals to deal with difficult problems and suggest improvements. Based on current analysis of the organization, it is facing the following main problems:
- Role conflicts within groups
- Communication problems among group members
- Lack of cohesiveness in groups with diverse members
- Excessive intergroup conflict
When people are working together as a group, conflict is inevitable. One of the common causes of conflicts is lack of role definition. This type of conflict occurs when employees do not understand their roles in the group. In other words, there is confusion about who does what and when. When the roles are unclear, the result is a situation where a worker sees his/her colleagues as infringing on his duties. Role conflict introduces infighting and this distracts employees from their core activities.
Communication problems often cause disagreements within the group. Miscommunication can be caused by lack of information and rumors. When there is a lack of information, people resort to speculation and spreading rumors. Circulation of wrong information worsens relations due to accusations and counter accusations that eventually emerge.
Teams are more productive than a single person is when working on a problem. Poor communication, therefore, makes it difficult for employees to work in a united way in order to achieve a set goal (Kopelman, 2011).
Success, however, depends on cohesiveness within the team. Many organizations try to achieve greater success by deploying teams to work on difficult problems, but only a few succeed. The main source of failure is the inability to build cohesive teams. A good team does not evolve from nothing, but requires hard work and investment in building the right level of cooperation and understanding within the team.
The team leader must be a skillful person who is able to foster team spirit. A good team works collaboratively and shares common goals and resources. Productivity is also achieved if interests, competencies, and skills of individual team members are taken into account when assigning tasks. The focus is not on popular personalities, but ability and skill. The success or failure of a team rests with the team leader or the person assigned the tasks of creating teams. The leader therefore plays a critical role in fostering cohesiveness.
The main purpose of team building is to bring out the very best in a team to ensure better leadership skills, positive communication, self-development, and the team’s ability to work more closely on problem solving. It is therefore important for each team member to know themselves and other members of the team well to work together effectively. Lack of cohesiveness worsens communication problems.
A good team building exercise helps to reduce conflicts in the team and help the team to work together as one (Campbell, 2011). It creates an opportunity for the team members to understand each other, their strengths, and weaknesses alongside those of a team. Lack of teamwork due to conflict compromises the ability of an organization to achieve its objectives.
Intergroup conflicts make it impossible for members of the group to work together, and inability to work together means that goals cannot be achieved. For the organization to improve employee productivity, there is a need to assign every employee a specific role, encourage communication, foster cohesiveness and solve conflict as they arise.
Recommendations to resolve the problems
How to resolve excessive intergroup conflict
Identify signs of conflict early
Paying attention to conflict when they arise is critical in creating an effective team, as conflicts are inevitable when people are working together (Campbell, 2011). This can arise as very often some members of the group like hurting others. A disagreement can quickly become personal and degenerate into something ugly. If conflicts are not solved, they can fester like a wound or spread like cancer thereby hurting efficient work processes. Although some levels of disagreements are acceptable and even healthy, disagreements beyond a certain level should be avoided at all cost.
The first step towards solving conflict is to identify them. Once the conflict has been identified, the team leader should encourage members to bring their problems or issues to the surface. Telling members to drop their complaints or forget about them is not the way to go. When conflicts appear on the surface or once members are free to ventilate freely the issues they have, it is easy to work out strategies for solving them (Campbell, 2011).
After identifying the problems, the next step is solving the conflicts. There is no silver bullet that can find decisions to all the conflicts. Different types of conflicts should be handled differently in order to come to the satisfaction of all parties. Experienced and older employees are better at resolving conflicts among themselves. The source of conflict could be generational differences, differences in age, or the cause could be racial/gender prejudices. The following steps are recommended for solving conflicts. Every member of the team should be given a chance to explain what the problem is.
The second step is to establish rules and give every person a chance to speak. The third step is encouraging members to solve problems among themselves without the intervention of the team leader or the manager (Kopelman, 2011). The last step is taking the parties involved in the conflict through a problem-solving framework.
Adopting the right framework for solving the conflict
There are five main styles of dealing with conflicts. The styles are different because they have various degrees of assertiveness and cooperativeness and their usefulness differs according to the situation or the nature of conflict. The five styles are competitive, collaborative, compromising, accommodating, and avoiding. The competitive style is suitable when a firm stand is needed. The person using this style needs to be persuasive. This style is ideal when a quick decision is needed. However, the style may appear dictatorial and leave people bruised, resentful, or unsatisfied. Under a collaborative style, the goal is to meet the needs of everyone.
The people involved in the conflict may be asserted, but agree that collaborating through mutual respect is the best way to solve their differences. All views are heard and a decision is arrived at through consensus after weighing different viewpoints. In compromising style, the objective is to satisfy everyone. Here, there is no winner or loser, but all parties in the dispute make gains. At the same time, everything is required to lose something or compromise. This style is ideal where the cost of conflict is more than the cost of losing ground.
If parties stick to hard-line positions, the only way to move forward is to compromise where everyone gains and loses something. Under accommodating style, there are winners and losers. The person who surrenders a position is often the one deemed mature and most understanding in addition to being cooperative. By surrendering positions, the other party feels appreciated and this softens them.
This strategy, as the name suggests, involves avoiding the conflict altogether. Typically, the strategy is put in motion by avoiding making decisions. This is done in order to avoid hurting feelings of people (Heaton, 2012). In solving conflicts arising in a team, this style is not good as it is weak and ineffective most of the times. In the teams that I have led, I have used almost all the styles, but generally did not use avoiding style.
The second approach to conflict resolution is interest-based relational approach (IBR). This approach aims to solve disputes by softening positions first. IBR used the following approach in conflict resolution.
- Focus on making good relationship as the top priority through respecting the other party and being courteous
- Separate people and problems so that conflicts and differences of opinions do not become personal
- Listen carefully to the interests and positions being presented by the parties in conflict in order to understand the nature of the conflict and its possible sources
- Listen first and talk later
- Set out the facts of the dispute
- Explore options together in order to see whether there is a possible third position
How to solve role conflict within groups
Giving every member a specific role within the group
Every member of the team should contribute positively to the operations being undertaken in order to attain the goals and the purpose of the team. A competent team manager should clarify the role of each person in the team.
The role of each person must be aimed at furthering the team’s objectives. If some people are left out, they will become bored and disinterested in the group and at the same time, some personalities may start dominating the group, effectively alienating the majority. Roles need to be assigned to people in specific terms. For the example, if the team has a project with a tight deadline, it makes sense to assign one person the task of coordinating the project and setting timetables. The second person would get the task of writing brochures and printing them. All other tasks are assigned in a similar manner.
How to solve communication problems among groups
Providing team members as well as stakeholders with information
Team members should be in touch with the people who use what they do (Heaton, 2012). Internal and external customers of the team must be notified of what is happening. Often, teams are given the task of initiating reforms inside the organization. Once the reforms or changes are introduced, those affected must be informed accordingly. The task of providing information to those affected by the changes planned by the team should be assigned to a team member too. If the production or materials management departments were affected, one team member would be assigned the task of informing respective departments.
Giving out that information allows the team, as well as the organization to work in harmony. The changes that are planned by teams are communicated to respective decision makers for implementation so that the overall goals of the team are achieved. If a team was tasked with identifying a more cost effective method of supply chain management, suggested changes must have been communicated to the supply chain department for implementation.
Encouraging interaction and communication within teams
Members of the team should interact during meetings. The goal of the team members is to interact among themselves in order to solve a difficult problem. Members of dysfunctional teams address issues they have to the leader as opposed to interacting among themselves and solving the problems. Interaction improves communication. As they develop a rapport, they will be comfortable to openly discuss issues, solicit advice, and build on the creativity of other team members. If a single person dominates the group, then the chances of achieving success are limited.
The manager or the supervisor may dominate the team and competition creeps in as members vie to catch the attention of the manager or supervisor. The team leader should try as much as possible not to dominate the team. Competition naturally shunts aside the more retiring and inward looking members of the team. Such members are important and are usually the most creative, but speak the least.
How to resolve Lack of cohesiveness in groups with diverse members
Unpopular views should not be ignored. Group thinking in the team should be avoided at all costs. However, if unpopular views are not entertained or even encouraged, the team will fall into that trap, as people with opposing views will be afraid of airing them. A team as a whole can fall for flawed plan and people should be free to point it out. Ordinarily, such views that go against everybody’s else may be ignored or met with hostility, but for the sake of the group and for the sake of realization of the wider company goal, such views should be heard and examined.
Effective managers encourage their teams to look out for and even embrace radial ideas and views. Such diversity of opinions allows the group to avoid reaching some flawed conclusions. Unpopular perspectives should be examined to determine whether to have merits. Often, such views introduce an unpopular perspective ignored, but critical for the success of the goals of the team.
Members must trust each other to the extent that those offering unpopular views should be seen as only doing so in order to advance the realization of team goals. In dysfunctional teams, it is common for those who air unpopular views to be dismissed as egotistic without considering the merits of their arguments.
Maintaining high levels of motivation and productivity is critical in attaining the goals the organization has set. The first step in doing so is establishing effective teams. Problems impeding the smooth operations of the group should be solved in order to foster cohesive operations. Poor communication, lack of cohesiveness, role conflict, and excessive intergroup conflict can be solved if the management of the organization is committed to improving employee productivity.
Campbell, J. (2011). Productivity in organizations: New perspectives from industrial and organizational psychology. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Heaton, H. (2012). Productivity in service organizations: Organizing for people. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Kopelman, R. (2011). Managing productivity in organizations: A practical, people-oriented perspective. New York: McGraw-Hill.