Being in charge of a team is a complicated responsibility. On one hand, it’s important to be involved in team chemistry so that workers are encouraged to stay focused and get along. However, if a manager is too involved in the petty aspects of team chemistry, it’s easy to lose sight of greater objectives and get caught up in meaningless squabbles. Good leadership means being able to resolve conflicts with decorum. But how can managers tell the difference between harmless disagreements, and toxic resentment? Here are a few indicators which distinguish whether conflicts should be ignored, or addressed, before things get out of hand:
I. Ordinary Circumstances Provoke Extreme Responses:
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with members of a team butting heads with one another every now and then. After all, the more people debate or exchange ideas, the more space they have to offend one another. That being said, if one or more members of your team starts to display intense agitation under mundane circumstances, chances are there’s a toxic conflict fueling their emotions. Get to the bottom of this unease and resolve their triggers before misunderstandings incite hostile behavior.
II. Grudges Won’t Go Away:
Sometimes when two people end up fighting, the underlying reason for their disagreement doesn’t seem that serious in the moment. However, as time goes by, arguments about completely unrelated situations will slowly gravitate back to disputing over an ancient issue which happened long ago. If you notice such a dynamic playing out within your team, know that it’s triggered by unforgiveness. Unforgiveness should never be allowed to exist for extended periods of time in a team because left unchecked, it cements into bitterness.
III. Someone Resorts to Sabotage:
Conflict is uncomfortable. However, as long as conflict within a team doesn’t interfere with professional objectives, then said conflict is more-or-less inert. If a conflict ever spills over to the point that team members actively undermine one another’s work, then the situation has crossed a line that managers shouldn’t ignore. Team members might not be in a position to always respect one another, but they should respect their organization enough to be professional in spite of conflict. Acts of sabotage are usually a sign that anger has become so intensified that team members can’t tell the difference between personal and professional disagreement.
When managers take charge of teams, there’s always an expectation that everyone will fall in line and all there is to focus on is work. Unfortunately, that’s not how real life goes. Teams are made up of human beings, and the more human beings are exposed to pressure, the likelier it is that toes will be stepped on, and lines will be crossed. Any person in a position of leadership should be prepared to confront and resolve conflicts in a diplomatic way. This requires a deeper understanding of human nature, and a sober temperament to defuse tension and build reconciliation. Don’t allow friction to accumulate in your blind spots. Pay attention to your team’s chemistry, and do whatever it takes to keep it stable and productive.