Inter-Team Conflict

A client who was dealing with a deteriorating relationship between two teams in their organisation decided to contact us. The teams had important work to deliver between them and yet the relationship between the two teams had disintegrated. The conflict had spilled over.  These two teams usually work in partnership and now they were struggling to engage.

This scenario was multi-layered. Rather than just one source of conflict there were multiple components. The following sources of conflict were present:

One individual from each team found themselves unwittingly in a personality clash.  One was assertive and simply doing their best to deliver their responsibilities.  The other unfortunately had adopted the role of rescuer for their team.  They both had similar personality types and the similarity between them was a challenge for them both to recognise.  Its much easier in a personality clash if very different personality types are involved.  The differences are stark and easily recognised.  When the personalities are similar recognising your stress behaviour in the other person takes a lot of self-awareness.

An ‘us and them’ mentality developed between the two teams, both teams had retreated into their own ‘camp’.    This was driven by unconscious passive behaviours and a desire to support team members.  The challenge with this is you demonise the other team and the consequence of this is more struggle!

A belief that conflict is a bad thing results in people choosing not to engage.  A remote working environment encourages passive non-direct communication.  A lack of face-to-face communication reduces our capacity to interact constructively with others.  Both passive avoidance and passive aggressive behaviours had developed across both teams.  The inability to communicate assertively with each other finally resulted in an eruption, a venting!

As with all major conflicts the issue at the very centre is power.  This scenario was characterised by an attitude of superiority from one of the teams.  Considering that both teams were established on a partnering basis, for one team to adopted a superior attitude caused a lot of friction.  This was difficult to pin down and the source of this was not easily identifiable.  This was the issue that once identified toppled the dynamic and led to a resolution.

Conflict Resolution

The single most important task is to engage with the individuals most affected by this negative dynamic and listen to them.

A series of 1:1 face-to-face conversations were established with the aim of listening to each individual’s perspective.  Only by listening to each person was it possible to identify the patterns in play.

Our focus is always on identifying the communication and behavioural patterns being used in any conflict situation.  Once we understand these patterns movement can be made.

Feedback was arranged between the most senior leaders where the patterns were presented and alternative behavioural and communication traits were suggested.

At this time feedback was presented on the nature of the power dynamics in play.  This is by its nature a delicate conversation to have, we always have it though.

Individual feedback was given to the key individuals that ended up being the protagonists.

A facilitated session was delivered with both teams in the same space.  Using a PinPoint Facilitation Process a new way of working for the teams was devised. Stretching outcomes and a team charter were developed outside the workshop.