Rise Performance Group

5 Tips for Preventing Unhealthy Team Conflict

By Sally Ann Moyer

Healthy competition within a team can be a motivating force, but it can also cause conflicts that tear groups apart. Finding just the right balance can take a team from mediocre to sensational. However, the competitive desire to succeed and win can drive some to cheat. From the lazy student hoping to steal an answer from your math test to the coworker who pitches the idea you first shared in the break room, many of us know what it’s like to be copied.

But does using another’s basic design count the same as copying?

Recently, Apple went to trial with Samsung over patent issues resulting in similar design. A post about the case on Forbes.com stressed that “design is not invention.” For example, there are only so many ways to make a car before it stops being a car.

In the business world, this pushes us to see that it’s not always about who gets credit. The recent Apple v. Samsung trial can teach us about innovation but also about resolving team conflicts at work. While the two are separate companies, both manufacture similar products. Apple could have let the dispute drive better design instead of just controversy. Co-workers in competition have the same goal in mind. We’ve posted before about ending co-worker conflict, but this is crucial when employees must work together on a specific project.

So how do successful teams turn competition into innovation?

1. Start with the right team:
Building complementary teams of people can be the best way to prevent conflict before it even begins. We recommend using assessments to develop a team with a range of both personalities and skills. The ProfileXT can help you match employees to the right jobs.

2. Celebrate differences:
Diversity is not just a feel-good cliché of the modern era. It can actually be a way to boost individual confidence and encourage collaboration. When employees see how they differ from each other, they will see less friction in their collaborative efforts. Diverse perspectives create more problem solving opportunities. Have experienced team members share with younger employees, and let younger employees teach older generations about social media and new technologies.

3. Share the same goal:
A research report on how to “Avoid the Seven Biggest Team-Building Blunders” stresses the need to build a team with not just the right chemistry but also the same goal. This means actually voicing a goal out loud so the team knows what they’re working toward. Apple and Samsung share a similar goal of creating the best and most popular smartphone. Clear competition can keep the emphasis on innovation. While Apple and Samsung compete as companies, co-workers on the same team compete for a mutual benefit. With an eye on the final goal, team members will be less likely to get caught up in short term disputes.

4. Capitalize on individual strengths:
Effective teams know how to turn the success of individuals into a successful group effort. Maintaining a healthy dose of competition keeps a project from stagnating. Inevitably, somebody will come up with a better idea or get the work done before somebody else. Channel these individual successes into a drive for more success. Team members with the right skills will see how their individual strengths can improve upon another team member’s idea.

5. Establish team checkpoints:
Measuring progress along the way gives value to the original goal. This helps the team continue to share the same goal and allows for re-evaluation if necessary. Checkpoints also give team members a chance to voice their concerns throughout the project. Keep in mind these are team checkpoints, not individual progress reports. Successful teams know that it’s not always about the credit along the way.

Strong teams are made up of diverse individuals with specific roles but the same goal. They recognize that each member has a purpose and are aware that they could not accomplish the task as well on their own. When Samsung copied Apple’s successful design, Apple had the opportunity to use this as a motivating force for letting competition lead to creation. Unlike rival companies, team members can channel competition into mutual gain. Using diversity to drive success takes competition from conflict to innovation.

What do you think about workplace competition and how it can affect teams?

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