Monday, October 29, 2012

Teamwork and Conflict

I have had the experience of working as part of a group many times throughout my academic career, as well as my brief professional career.  Some of my experiences have certainly been better than others, and no two situations are ever exactly the same.  With that said, reflecting on my experiences I have definitely noticed certain traits and nuances that generally exist within most of the groups I have been apart of where we accomplished our goal and worked together successfully.

One of most important characteristics of a successful group is for each group member to understand their role within the group and perform the requirements of their role in a satisfactory manner.  If every member of the group works on each aspect of a project, it is an inefficient usage of time.  Breaking down major projects into smaller tasks and responsibilities, will help group members focus their time better, while also allowing for a greater attention to detail.  This method can also help team morale, by catering to the strengths of each group member, and allowing each member to make a contribution to the success of the group.  Ultimately roles are created and defined by the interpersonal relationships of the team members. Distributing work requires trust among the team that each person can successfully fulfill their responsibilities.  When this trust is broken, conflict, or at a minimum tension amongst group members, is likely to arise.

An enjoyable group experience that I had was during my senior year in a Business Administration class.  There were 4 other students in the group other than myself, and this was a group where everything just seemed to fall into place.  The project consisted of a 5 page paper and 20 minute presentation but we were able to split the work evenly, and in a manner that each member felt suited their individual strengths well.  This led to a successful project, and a feeling among the group that each member really contributed to our overall success.  For example, I feel very comfortable giving presentations, so I handled a majority of the speaking responsibilities, while other members who felt more comfortable writing shouldered greater responsibility in that area.

A group experience that I did not find as enjoyable was working at my internship this summer.  I was a new intern working on one of my first client engagements, yet our group was patched together in a very unusual manner.  I was filling the role of a full-time staff member, and the only other members of the group were two managers who came to the firm as experienced hires and had never worked with an intern before. From the start, there was miscommunication over our expectations of each other. They thought I would know more about the required tasks, and I was expecting to receive more hands-on guidance from my group members, considering it was one of my first-ever engagements, and based off of conversations with other members of the firm.  While it ended up working out in the end, it certainly was not without obstacles, and led to a much more stressful working environment than intended.  Better communication from the start of the engagement would have likely prevented many of the issues.

1 comment:

  1. I have never quite understood on student projects how one knows ahead of time how to divide up the work if it is just based on division of labor and not on comparative advantage. Students can underestimate how long something takes to do or overestimate and then what seemed like a fair division at the outset ends up not being that way. I agree with your point about trusting your teammates but I wonder what creates that trust, especially if you don't know the people ahead of time.