How to manage conflict in your team?

September 2019

Conflict in the team

Are you facing serious and frequent misunderstandings, misalignment, different expectations or even an open conflict?

Research around space teams and managing conflict and miscommunication

Human error and miscommunication is a great concern in all space missions. The crew has to spend a long time in a confined space, isolated from the rest of the world and be constantly ready to quickly make crucial decisions. The cooperation among crew members must fulfill the highest standards even though they often differ in their language skills and come from different cultures.

The gravity of such long-term isolation transpired, for example, during the SFINCSS 99 experiment – a 240-day long simulated space mission – where conflicts among crew members escalated to physical aggression and an early resignation of one of them. During Mars 500 and Mars 105 experiments, sociomapping was regularly used in order to monitor interpersonal relations and prevent potential conflicts.

So what triggers the conflict and what helps?

Most of the teams, as well as most of the couples, are facing over and over the same issues. Most of the conflicts are usually around different expectations, values, or perceptions. Prof. John Gottman found out, that more than 70% of the conflicts will never disappear and will repeat over again in every couple. The point is that it is our attitude towards conflicts, the issue and the other party what matters.

In the space experiments, we found out, that misunderstandings and conflicts occur significantly less if there is enough intensive communication. In other words, if there is enough space to clarify, express, empathies and understand each other. Therefore focus on communication is crucial. Frequency and quality are the two areas you should always monitor.

Case study: Marketing team (Global FMCG company)

After a change of the marketing director there was suddenly an open conflict between the senior leader and the team which ended-up by “hates” and blocking each other on Facebook.

Team effectivity

April 20186 months later after sociomapping

Height represents individual effectivity, Positions reflect mutual importance

Customer quote

Sociomapping helped the new leader to overcome extremely strong resistance from the team members and get the team back on track


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