Original Post by Will Magnum:
You may need to bring team conflict to a meeting when there are multiple sides to a story that are affecting the workflow of the office. When there is tension between your team, workflow will almost come to a standstill. Bringing it up at a team meeting will allow everyone to understand each other in a shared space. A situation when you need to handle something privately is when the whole team has complaints about each other. Then, as a leader we can act as a mediator between the two parties so that there can be a remedy. In a professional setting, I am hoping that most of the team members will understand that they are a team and that the conflict must be remedied.
In the situation, I would speak with each of the employees privately to discuss what is going on. I do not want to assume anything based on rumor. After confirming the conflict and understanding the story, I will discuss it with the team and see if they have solutions to the issues. The individual meetings will be private, and the team meeting will be in a conference room setting and I will allow only one person to speak at a time. I feel as though my team should be professional enough to understand the group dynamic and proceed with finding the solution as quickly as possible. The stages of group development should be addressed as well because that can affect how the situation is resolved. Depending on where the group is in the stages of development can determine the situation’s remedy. If the group is well formed and in the performing stage, then conflict should be resolved quickly. However, if a group is just in the forming stage, this can prove difficult when resolving conflict. In the forming and storming stage, trust and rapport is built and group members begin to rely on each other. If there is conflict during these stages, it can slow down the group’s development and sometimes destroy the group (Manning 2014).
Manning, George. 2014. The Art of Leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill.
It is important to distinguish tension from conflict. In his book, Patrick Lencioni differentiated the two as Kathryn explained tension as the reason why she needed to have conflict be a component of group meetings. Tension continues to be in the air insofar as leaders are afraid to have difficult conversations both privately and in a group setting. Tension was the reason why people did not feel safe to talk about difficult topics at group meetings and make some headway. Kathryn needed to remind her executive team that her welcoming of conflict into the group meetings was constructive for the team, and different from tension, in order for them to understand that she was not destructive. Instead, having conflict at team meetings does create a shared space for ideas to be brought to the surface. It increases the likelihood that folks will understand each other better because they will assume less as a result of having less be unspoken. However, it may not result in them all agreeing.
I disagree that the decision to handle something privately is based on the whole team having complaints about each other. Instead, I would only handle something privately if someone is being destructive to the group by not adhering to the group goal. In the book, Kathryn had private conversations with Mikey and Nick when the two employees had attitude problems. However, even though all of the executive staff had complaints about each other, she still held the initial off-site retreat and welcomed the complaints to be shared as a group. It was essential to making it so people felt that everything was out on the table so that they could build trust. From there, it was crucial to make people vulnerable and bring out their best ideas about how to achieve the goal.
Great idea to only have one person speak at a time. Multiple people speaking at once would be a sign of chaos and increase the likelihood that emotions escalate. Also, if the purpose of the group meeting is for people to feel heard, then the last thing a leader would want to happen is having someone be interrupted and talked over.
Lencioni, Patrick. 2002. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Comment by Professor Robert Gnuse:
Will, nice post and good recognition that some issues may best be handled in private, while others get put to the whole team, For example, if there are two individuals who seem to be in a power struggle with each other, then best to handle that in private. Mary gave several great examples from the supplemental reading by Lencioni as to how Katheryn handled conflict differently in certain situations. There were times she welcomes conflict into team discussions, but other times she took it outside the meeting behind closed doors (talk with Mikey).