Facilitating an Effective Team in an Organization
Traditional organizational structures introduce teams or groups to see what works and what does not within an organization. While employees have already formed their own social groups for their personal interaction with other employees, management devised ways to re-group them and build teams that would be more productive for the organization. The old hierarchies were replaced with cross-functional structures that were both flat and self-directed. The emergence of the concept of High Performance Teams evolved (Bodwell, 2002). To date, organizations and businesses have shifted to this kind of paradigm. They are depicted as flexible but difficult to put together, expensive but worth every cent. To build a high performance team requires a lot of work, time, effort and money. The team leader can serve to be the conduit between the team and the management or other external organizations. Facilitating and coordinating the team’s activities is also the responsibility of the team leader. Any team leader should be able to ensure that the team maintains the ethical standards of the organization.
In developing favorable work environments, more corporations are now staunch in their support for diversity. Dealing with diversity in a way that makes it a kind of organizational “strength” has come to be known as “managing” diversity. According to Sharon Nelton:
Managing diversity meant, and still means, fostering an environment in which workers of all kinds—men, women, white, disabled, homosexual, straight, elderly—can flourish and, given opportunities to reach their full potential and contribute at the highest level, can give top performance to a company (p. 19).
When we refer to “diversity”, this could mean cultural, demographic, organizational or psychological and encompasses ethnicity, religion, gender, age, personality, values, attitudes, occupations, status, or job tenure. By working together in well-supervised teams that include women and men, young and old, minorities and non-minorities, employees can learn how to realize the full potential of diversity.
With regards to compensation, most organizations commit a “weakness” in the implementation of an appropriate compensation system. In other words, if you want teamwork to work, make it pay. This does not mean that employees are no longer compensated as individuals. Rather, the most successful compensation systems combine both individual and team pay. In Anne Schauber’s study (2001), it found that if a team’s performance is duly rewarded by the organization, a culturally diverse organization “may be more economical in the long run” and “will result in better service to a changing clientele”. “It enhances the creativity and problem-solving capabilities of the organization” in such a way that the “previously untapped talent and energy will be focused on achieving organizational goals” (Schauber, 2001). Thus, diversity has become a positive contributing factor to the achievement of the goals of a high performance team.
On the other hand, another fact that is inevitable is when conflicts occur within an organization. Conflicts could arise whenever disagreements exist in a social situation over issues of substance or whenever emotional antagonisms create frictions between individuals or groups. Managers and team leaders can spend considerable time dealing with conflict, including conflicts in which the manager or leader is directly involved as one of the principal actors (Kotter, 1982).
However, to think that all conflicts are bad is wrong. This is because some conflicts are preventive and reduce hindrances to goal attainment. Thus, an effective leader or manager can learn to curtail conflict on one hand and to design or to allow its influence on the other, becoming increasingly wise in determining the need for each. Also, it is inevitable to have conflicts when working in teams. Before a manager can respond effectively to a conflict, he or she needs to understand the real nature of that conflict. Who is involved or what is the source of the conflict? In the Conflict Resolution Network’s (CRN) 12 Conflict Resolution Skills, this is called “mapping the conflict”, where defining the source of conflict is defined (Conflict Resolution Network, 2006).
Although most role conflict occurs when an employee’s supervisor or peers send conflicting expectations to him or her, it is possible for intrapersonal role conflict to emerge from within an individual, as a result of competing roles taken. For example, an employee named Penelope may see herself as both the manager of a team responsible for protecting and enlarging its resources and as a member of the executive staff charged with the task of reducing operating costs. This is a type of intrapersonal conflict. As conflict can occur within an employee, between individuals or groups, and across organizations as they compete, Newstrom and Davis (2004) applied levels in conflict: intrapersonal, interpersonal and group conflicts.
More often, it is the interpersonal conflicts that become a serious problem to many people because they deeply affect a person’s emotions. There is a need to protect one’s self-image and self-esteem from damage by others. When self-concept is threatened, serious upset occurs and relationships deteriorate. Sometimes the temperaments of two persons are incompatible and their personalities clash. In other instances, conflicts develop from failures of communication or differences in perception. One popular concept gaining praises in resolving interpersonal conflicts is “emotional intelligence,” or the ability to manage emotions and interpersonal relationships. Sometimes divided into the four components of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skills, emotional intelligence is being introduced in training programs at organizations (Gupta ; Jenkins 1996, p. 23–30).
On the other hand, intergroup conflicts could occur between different departments. On a major scale such conflicts are something like the wars between juvenile gangs. Each group sets out to undermine the other, gain power, and improve its image. Conflicts arise from such causes as different viewpoints, group loyalties, and competition for resources. Resources are limited in any organization—and are increasingly tight as organizations struggle to be competitive. Since most groups feel that they need more than they can secure, the seeds of intergroup conflict exist wherever there are limited resources.
As emphasized above, some conflicts are not bad because they can be constructive, and this is certainly true at the intergroup level. Here, conflict may provide a clue that a critical problem between two departments needs to be resolved rather than allowed to smolder. Unless issues are brought into the open, they cannot be fully understood or explored. Once intergroup conflict emerges, it creates a motivating force encouraging the two groups to resolve the conflict so as to move the relationship to a new equilibrium. Viewed this way, intergroup conflict is sometimes escalated —intentionally stimulated in organizations because of its constructive consequences. On other occasions it may be desirable to de-escalate it — intentionally decrease it because of its potentially destructive consequences. The managerial challenge is to keep conflict at a moderate level (where it is most likely to stimulate creative thought but not interfere with performance). Conflict should not become so intense that individual parties either hide it or escalate it to destructive levels (Newstrom ; Davis, 2004).
Within these three levels of conflict, conflict resolution procedures involve multiple dimensions: procedures and diverse participant roles for handling conflict, implicit as well as explicit teaching of understandings and skills, and patterns of interpersonal and community relations that are enacted or challenged to change. Procedures, such as codes of conduct, peer mediation, restorative justice group conferencing, or bullying or harassment policies, inevitably model and practice particular approaches to conflict. In this case, all conflict resolution should enhance relationship-building initiatives, such as democratic education, antiracism, antihomophobia, and gender equity efforts, provide implicit or explicit education about social conflict, multiple perspectives, and pluralism. By virtue of being assumed and, therefore, often uncriticized, implicit conflict education can be a very powerful source of students’ knowledge, attitudes, skills, and social role expectations. The background of implicit messages in any given context will facilitate or impede any explicit initiative in conflict resolution (Bickmore, 2003, p. 6).
As corporations are now presently seeking methods to improve their own workplace effectiveness and efficiency, individual and group performance has to be measured. Work teams transform to become empowered to make decisions and improve performance; there is also an increased need for accountability. Virtually, all organizations with work teams need a means for measuring their teams’ performance. Indeed, high performance teams coupled with diversity could spell the success of any organization or corporation in our fast changing global environment. What’s important is for team members to be consistently coached by management or external agencies hired by management to continually trust, respect and support each other and the organization. Coaching coupled with their guidelines will keep in check their members’ behavior and enhance their decision making skills. Empowerment is a key for the advancement of these skills. To be empowered, the team needs to have information and resources. It also needs the management’s trust that they won’t abuse the information or the resources they are given, which is often curtailed by the guidelines they have set for themselves.
Bickmore, K. (2003). Chapter 1. Conflict Resolution Education. In Handbook of Conflict Management, Pammer, W. J. ; Killian, J. (Eds.) (pp. 3-32). New York: Marcel Dekker.
Bodwell, Donald J. (2002). High Performance Teams. Date Retrieved 22 July 2006. HighPerformanceTeams.org. From http://highperformanceteams.org/home.htm
Conflict Resolution Network. (2006). 12 Conflict Resolution Skills. Retrieved 22 July 2006 from CRN Website: http://www.crnhq.org/twelveskills.html.
Gupta, N. ; Jenkins, G.D. Jr. (1996). The Politics of Pay, Compensation ; Benefits Review, (March–April): 23–30.
Kotter, J. P. (1982) The General Managers. New York: Free Press.
Nelton, Sharon (1992, September). Winning with Diversity, Nation’s Business, p. 19.
Newstrom, J. W. ; Davis, K. (2004). Organizational Behavior: Human Behavior at Work, 11th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Schauber, Ann C. (2001, June). Effecting Extension Organizational Change Toward Cultural Diversity: A Conceptual Framework. Date Retrieved 22 July 2006. Journal of Extension Vol. 39 No. 3. From http://www.joe.org/joe/2001june/a1.html.