Conflicts in a team – how to deal with them? 

June 25, 2024

Conflicts in teams happen frequently. There are many reasons for this: team diversity, different cultural values, or communication problems. When resolving conflicts, it is worth taking into account the intergenerational differences of employees or internal organizational problems. 

Four generations 

There are four main generations that currently can be seen in the workplace. Each generation has slightly different values and can bring something unique to the table.  

Baby Boomers (born in the mid 1940s – mid 1960s) 

Baby Boomers hold a strong work ethic, they are loyal to their work. They feel a sense of responsibility for their job. One of their values is hard work and stability. Baby Boomers prefer direct communication in person or via phone. It helps them omit miscommunications.  

Generation X (born in the mid 1960s – 1980) 

Generation X are more likely to leave a job for a new one if their goals do not match the company’s. They work hard, but unlike their parents, Generation X welcomes some work-life balance.  They value autonomy and flexibility. Generation X is used to doing digital tasks and prefers using emails to communicate.  

Millennials (born in the 1980s and 1990s) 

Millennials were witnesses to globalization and growing up, technology was a big part of their lives. They are used to using technology and are looking for jobs that will fulfill them. They value teamwork and balance between work and private life. Millennials tend to prefer texting via communicators or emails rather than phone calls.  

Generation Z (born in the 2000s and 2010s) 

Generation Z grew up with technology and the rise of social media. They are comfortable with change and are ready to give up their job if it is not flexible enough. Growing up, they experienced tough economic times; therefore, Generation Z is more entrepreneurial than other generations. They want their job to be engaging. Generation Z is more likely to use forms of communication that will get them an instant response, such as texting or emails. 

What are the reasons for conflicts in the team? 

The main causes are communication problems:

  • too slow or too fast flow of information – affects the disorganization of work, may be due to the location of enterprises in two different regions or countries,  
  • lack of communication – may be due to the belief that all information is clear and does not need to be explained,   
  • lack of feedback – affects the organization and team relations,   
  • one-sided communication – the other side does not have a chance to respond, therefore conflict increases  

Another reason is generalization:   

  • use of “you” statements – using this way of communication (you are, you act), the information presented sounds accusatory, and the recipient of the message may feel attacked  
  • using communication stoppers – e.g. accusing, calling, criticizing or ordering. 

Other causes of conflict in the team also include stress and differences in values or goals. Stress in tense and crisis situations leads to further escalation. Each employee is different, so they have different goals or values. They may not align with the goals of the whole team.   

How to resolve conflicts? 

There are various conflict resolution strategies. Some examples of these are:   

Empathic communication  

It is important to adopt an empathetic attitude. Listening with understanding to the point of view of all parties to the conflict helps when relieving tension.   

Mediation and negotiation  

It is a good idea to bring in a third party not directly related to the conflict. Within companies, the role of mediator is usually taken by the HR People Partner.   

Use of constructive feedback  

Feedback, i.e. giving constructive input, prevents further escalation of conflicts.   

Building a positive atmosphere  

Relationships between people in the team should be strengthened by oganizing team-building trips or company events. Enhancing interpersonal skills through training will help employees deal effectively with difficult situations. 

How can the HR department and the organization affect team conflicts?  

In crisis situations, there may be downsizing, so the HR department ensures proper management and communication. It motivates employees and monitors their level of commitment.  

It is primarily the HR department that communicates with employees during a crisis and effectively reduces employee uncertainty. The HR department should also provide support resources and tools to deal with the crisis. Adapting company policies to the new realities of the organization is also the responsibility of the HR department.  

The organization can introduce mental health support programs. More flexible work arrangements such as remote or hybrid work can be permitted, so employees can cope with a crisis situation.   


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