Dealing with tensions between teams

Dealing with tensions between teams

The client care team look to the training team to train the new recruits. But training feels that if client care did its own training, it would be more effective. Client care says it doesn’t have time to do training…

Inevitably some friction will arise between your team and others. You need to watch for signs of tension so you can deal with them sooner rather than later when they could escalate into full-blown conflict.

Here are some common causes of conflict:

teams being misinformed about each other
If outsiders have little information about the team (particularly in the early stages) they may make assumptions or work from rumours.
Hastings et al. (1986)

competition for resources

competition for, or violation of, ‘territory’, for example, a team’s space, responsibilities or influence

envy of a confident, cohesive team which appears arrogant to outsiders
a team with a chip on its shoulder
conflicting objectives, priorities or standards.
The marginal group, the low-status group, the unnoticed group, is under a big temptation to activate their latent negative power.
Handy (1985)

These sources of tension easily lead to a them-and-us attitude, in which your team closes ranks to confront ‘the enemy’. Perceptions of each other become distorted and thus destructive conflict easily emerges.

Resolving conflict between teams involves similar ideas to resolving conflict between team members, which we looked at in Section 2. Your role is different though. You need to take into account the wider picture, and act as a team player as much as a leader.
tips for resolving tensions between teams
Avoid stereotyping, for example, ‘They’re a lazy lot…’
Avoid generalising, for example, ‘They always send things late…’
Avoid offloading blame, for example, ‘It’s their problem not ours…’
Nip the problem in the bud as soon as you can
Follow the tips for dealing with conflict in Section 2

Now do this
Explore your experience of inter-team conflict using the following table.
Write down three situations where you’ve experienced conflict between teams  What were the symptoms of conflict? What do you think was the cause? How was the conflict dealt with? Was the solution satisfactory? 

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