Team Conflicts - Positions & Roles


Differences of opinion are “par for the course” when it comes to working as a team to address the issues of planning for, responding to, or recovering from an emergency or crisis. The hope is that after a group gets through the initial few days together, they will eventually realize that they need to work together, but this process is hard. Working with others is tough.

It is important to distinguish between the different types of conflict teams might experience this way you can head off some of the issues “at the pass.” According to Dr. Eunice Parisi-Carew, teams expert, and coauthor of the upcoming book, Collaboration Begins With You. There are four major areas of team conflict. Over the next few posts, I will be discussing each of these and giving some advice on how a you can intervene properly in each. The first and often most common type of conflict you might experience is the conflict over a position or role.

Positions & Roles Conflict

This type of conflict is especially important to recognize early in the process when groups are forming, and people are assuming roles. You might think that strong leadership can help quell this but not always. Individuals may take on an assigned role yet assume someone else’s responsibilities as well creating conflict. When this occurs what can be done to fix this problem?

I have been faced with this and it was so bad that I had to break up the team and reassemble it without the perceived troublemakers. This may seem like the easy approach, but it is not. Building a good team is hard work and not something that is easily done on the fly. Another option is to stop everything and allow everyone to speak their mind without interruption. The rest are just to listen and try to understand where they are coming from and why they are posing the solution that they are. In the conflict arena, this is referred to as a Circle Process and it is successful if done well.

In a circle process, your job would be to make sure everyone is heard, and once the exercise is completed, you should look for overarching themes or concerns. Once these are properly uncovered, you can build on these shared concerns. Many times these shared themes become the new focus.

You may not always agree with or even get along with your team, but you are a part of one, and people are counting on you to work together. In our field we cannot risk always being disagreeable, lives are at stake.

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