Interpersonal Conflicts in Teams – Causes and Mediators of Conflict among Team Members

The conflict process, at any given situation, can be modeled to constitute causes of the conflicts, processes through which these are perpetuated, and effects. Once the outcomes of the conflicts are established, they provide a feedback to the causes by either aggravating or alleviating them (Wall & Callister, 1995). Relating to the antecedents of conflicts in a team, both personal and interpersonal factors could play a role. While personal factors concern such individual traits as values, goals, stress, anger and personality, interpersonal factors comprise aspects such as the perception that the behavior of other team members is harmful to team processes, distrust among team members, perception of unequal (unfair) treatment of some team members, and lack of effective communication among the team members (Wall & Callister, 1995). Having an imposing team leader, contradictions between word and deeds, and intra group favoritism could further lead to conflicts within a team set up (Leung, 2008).

People’s perception and opinions could however be a function of their cultural orientation and hence cultural differences may be a significant mediator of conflicts in teams. Project teams working in different territories exemplify the role of cultural differences in fueling team conflicts. Ochieng and Price (2009), for instance, observe that various countries have diverse perception of what constitutes applicable ethical standards in a particular situation. Whereas in some countries aspects such as corruption and bribery have been institutionalized as a way of life, others have great distaste for such practices (Ochieng & Price, 2009). Having a cross-cultural team in such a scenario could therefore result into conflicts where the individuals in the team who condone unethical means towards goal achievement perceive those opposed to these practices to be prolonging the project duration. From these perspectives, then, outcomes of conflicts in work teams could be varied and dependent on how the organization is able to resolve the conflicts to ensure cohesiveness within the team and among diverse cultures. Go to part 4 here.

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