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Blog Highlight: Frequently Asked TA Question: Conflict on Teams

Conflict. Some people love it and some people get very uncomfortable with it. It also happens almost any time you put people in the same room with different frameworks and different responsibilities. Which is why it is no surprise that so many questions we receive are related to conflict. First of all, conflict is normal. Your team isn’t a failure because you have conflict. If you didn’t have any conflict, we would be a bit concerned that people weren’t honest with their thoughts or that they weren’t invested enough in the team to care.

There is no “one size fits all” answer to resolving conflict. But, there are common strategies that teams can use. The NSVRC SART toolkit offers the following advice for teams:

  • Be open: Address problems openly rather than allowing them to go unresolved. Conflict avoidance is not conflict resolution.
  • Stay focused: Adhere to a decision-making philosophy grounded in what is best for the victim and what is in the best interest of the community.
  • Clarify interests: Encourage team members to explore the interests of opposing viewpoints and attempt to find common ground, all the while keeping the victim a priority concern. Return to the SART’s mission and shared goals as a common commitment that all members share. Also, help members recognize that each profession has a unique perspective and necessarily prioritizes actions differently because of those differing commitments. Taking time for each member to explain their own perspective can help everyone understand each other better.
  • Generate options: If common ground does not seem apparent, brainstorm ways to think in new and creative directions. For example, prosecutors may oppose the idea of evidence-based prosecution of cases involving adult sexual assault. On the other hand, forensic medical examiners and advocates may think justice is best served by developing evidence-based strategies proactively. Instead of stopping at an impasse of opposing viewpoints, develop evidence-based protocols based on exceptional cases. This strategy provides an opportunity for the team to work through issues proactively and give victims who are unable to testify full access to the criminal justice system.
  • Use meeting tools: Depending on where the conflict originates, agendas, meeting topic requests, and past meeting minutes can assist members in responding to a situation, referring to the historical record (meeting minutes) or prompting the concerned member to submit a meeting topic request, allowing other members the opportunity to come prepared to the discussion.
  • Find the middle ground: Encourage those with opposing opinions to identify the most attractive alternative recommendation while factoring in costs, time, outcomes, and compliance issues.
  • Be patient: Recognize that some problems do not lend themselves to immediate resolution.
  • Discuss scenarios: Engage SART members in discussions of potential scenarios that might provoke conflict or disagreement to identify issues where there is not consensus and to engage the group in an analysis of how the group’s mission and goals can guide members’ actions should such an example arise. Discussing a hypothetical situation is often not as emotionally charged, as SART members are less likely to feel they need to defend their actions.

At SVJI, we also suggest that sometimes you might need to have some honest and frank conversations about whether or not a person is a right fit to act as a representative of an agency… or if the agency they represent is the right fit for the team at this time. These conversations can be tough and should be used with caution, as you want to be sure that the behavior that arises from the conflict is worth jeopardizing a relationship.

When asked this question, we usually want to have a conversation with the person asking, to figure out what strategies might be best to try and how to navigate through the conflict. Sometimes, we might suggest that the coordinator isn’t the one to address the conflict. We would love to talk with you about other strategies you have seen work and/or discuss what might be a good fit for your community!

Reach out to us at svji@mncasa.org.