Group Conflict

What to do When Group Dynamics or Group Conflict are a Problem

scream and shout

Once you are promoted to a group leadership role you will find yourself responsible for meeting or group facilitation as a regular part of your role. So it is important you develop the skills required to manage group dynamics and handle any group conflict effectively.

Aside from routine team meetings, there are many other groups you may be called upon to facilitate.  Strategic planning workshops, incident debriefs, departmental meetings, external events or conferences and more. So it makes sense to ensure you know enough about group facilitation to decide whether you should do it yourself or bring in external professional facilitators in a given situation.

Although group facilitating might sometimes look easy, for many people the workshop facilitation skills required to achieve a satisfactory outcome can be more of a challenge than anticipated.

As a workshop facilitator, you need to be particularly conscious of group dynamics, including any pre-existing or emerging group conflict, and manage the process and personalities, all while you remain focused on the specific outcomes and results you are trying to achieve. This can be very difficult to do, if you also want to contribute to the discussion.

A good professional facilitator will be acutely aware of the group dynamics, including any potential group conflict, when facilitating a workshop, debriefing session, strategic planning process or meeting.

Here are three critical aspects of group dynamics a meeting facilitator must manage:

Group Conflict

Work group conflict is one aspect of meetings that worries many people, but when it is managed properly by an experienced group facilitator, it can be quite positive.

In fact, groups that suppress differences of style, opinion or approach or never discuss any underlying group conflict, are rarely as successful over the long term as those that accept and even encourage discussion about areas of dissent or group conflict.

When you are exploring long term options in a strategic planning process, different perspectives and disagreements are a healthy part of work communication and should be both encouraged and respected.

If you are bringing in an external facilitator for your meeting or workshop and you expect conflict within the group, you should discuss your concerns with any potential group facilitators in advance. This way you can be confident the professional facilitators you select will incorporate group exercises that ensure all participants have the opportunity to express themselves appropriately.

When conflict persists a skilled meeting facilitator will still be able to build understanding and a level of consensus about the next actions to be taken, despite any group conflict.

Dominant Personalities

Another important aspect of group dynamics to consider is whether there are any dominant personalities in the group who may make it difficult for others to contribute fully to the workshop.

The professional facilitators role in this situation is to ensure everyone participates in all group exercises and discussions, not just dominant, extroverted or senior members of the group.

In some situations it may be necessary to address cultural expectations of who should speak or when someone should speak. Some individuals or cultural groups expect to be asked for their input before they will contribute to discussions and a good facilitator will ensure everyone is explicitly invited to contribute to each key discussion or group exercises during the meeting or workshop.


The final aspect of group dynamics I want to address is that of assumptions. When people work together, or spend a lot of time together, it becomes easy to assume that everyone shares the same point of view or perspective on a whole range of matters, including how people will interact with each other as well as the topic under discussion.

A skilled meeting facilitator will be focused on detecting and questioning assumptions. Common assumptions that may need to be made explicit and addressed revolve around the program agenda and expected outcomes, and about exactly how the workshop will be run.

To facilitate a positive group dynamic and productive group exercises, group agreement should be sought about how things that might otherwise be assumed will be handled. Agreement should be sought about things such as interruptions and phone calls, breaks and punctuality, confidentiality and respect, listening to other participants and even speaking one at a time, for example.

If you decide that the group facilitating role is one you can (or need to) handle yourself, focusing on these three key areas of group dynamics – including group conflict, personalities and assumptions – will help you to gain most from your group leadership role.

Kerrie Mullins-Gunst (MBA, BSc, DipEd, FAICD, FRACI) is an experienced and professional business facilitator. Call our office on 03-9859 3924 today to discuss your group facilitation needs.

Should you decide that you will be more likely to overcome any group conflict issues and achieve your desired outcomes by using an external group facilitator, please call us on 03-9859 3924 to discuss how we can help you with professional meeting facilitation.

Facilitator quick tips

facilitator tipWhen you are using a professional facilitator, involve your facilitator in designing your strategic planning session. Their experience with many other groups offers valuable insight and new perspectives into what will be most effective in achieving your goals for the planning process.

A competent and experienced meeting facilitator will have the flexibility, skills and ability to guide your group to its ultimate objective via a range of different paths. Encourage and empower your facilitator to modify planned activities in response to the group dynamic on the day.

Using a Facilitator

Consider using an independent external facilitator for a range of important meetings, including:

  • project debriefs
  • incident reviews
  • evaluations sessions
  • change implementation programs
  • employee forums
  • community or customer consultations
  • teambuilding workshops, and
  • leadership programs.


Quote of Note

“A corporation without a strategy is like an airplane weaving through stormy skies, hurled up and down, slammed by the wind, lost in the thunderheads. If lightning or crushing winds don’t destroy it, it will simply run out of gas.”

Alvin Toffler


(Download more ideas for using a facilitator in the Facilitation Fact Sheet)

Group Facilitation

Me Fish!Once you are promoted to a group leadership role you will find yourself responsible for meeting or group facilitation as a regular part of your role.

Aside from routine team meetings, there are many other groups you may be called upon to facilitate. Group facilitation may be required for strategic planning workshops, incident debriefs, departmental meetings, external events or conferences and more. So it makes sense to ensure you know enough about group facilitation to decide whether you should facilitate the group yourself or bring in an external professional facilitator in a given situation.

Although it might sometimes look easy to facilitate a group, for many people the workshop facilitation skills required can be more of a challenge than they anticipated to achive a satisfactory outcome. If this is the case for you, professional group facilitation may be your answer.

As a workshop facilitator, you need to be conscious of group dynamics, including any pre-existing or emerging group conflict, and managing the process, along with the specific outcomes and results you are trying to achieve.

Preparing for Group Facilitation

Other things you may need to consider or prepare for include:

  • Group conflict and specifically what to do when group dynamics are a problem
  • Facilitator training and what the essential group facilitation skills are that you personally need to develop in order to facilitate your group most effectively
  • Meeting facilitation requirements and how they vary depending on the type of meeting involved for best results, and
  • How Professional facilitators (sometimes known as Business facilitators) can add value and when it is better to undertake your own group facilitation.

Effective meetings – tips to make them happen

Perhaps you know some people who say there are never any really effective meetings. And it’s true that no matter how effective you might hope the meetings you organise are, there are often others present who think they could have done more important things with the time.

Meeting effectiveness mattersThe problem is that, in this busy world, everyone around the table has a lot of things they personally need to do – and those things aren’t necessarily what you called the meeting for!

So when you plan meetings you really do have an obligation to everyone present to make sure they are effective meetings which promote teambuilding and project success, rather than a waste of everyone’s time.

Meetings can actually be very effective, with the right meeting planning. There are a number of things you can do as a leader to ensure you hold effective meetings so here are four tips to make your meetings more effective.

First, effective meetings have a clearly understood and communicated purpose. There is nothing that makes a meeting more ineffective than when there is an unclear objective. Lack of clarity in your meeting ‘s purpose can even lead to meeting attendees working at cross-purposes. When you define the meeting objective clearly – and communicate it to attendees before the meeting begins – you will find the right people not only attend your meeting, but they come well prepared and participate fully. This is one of the most powerful ways to ensure your meetings are effective meetings.

Second, make sure the attendees are the right people who need to be there.  Don’t invite others who aren’t involved in the project and don’t neglect to include everyone who is.  If the right people are at your meeting, all the information you need will be available, decisions will be made more quickly, time won’t be wasted bringing people up to speed on issues or outcomes and teambuilding will occur by default as people begin to feel involved in the things that matter.

Third, make sure your meeting lasts as long as needed to achieve your outcomes – but no longer.  That doesn’t mean that sharing a cup of coffee or even a meal before or after your meeting is inefficient or a waste of time.  In fact it can be a great way to build team spirit – better even than many other team building exercises.  And if teambuilding is one of your objectives in organising the meeting you might even consider it an essential part of your meeting agenda.  However, if your meeting has a more focused purpose that is achieved in 20 minutes, don’t be afraid to conclude the meeting just because you asked people to set aside an hour for it.  You will find everyone will be delighted to move on to work on their other priorities.

And finally, if your meeting is critical, such as one for strategic business planning, a critical incident review or even just one where poor group dynamics is an issue, consider using a professional facilitator.  An external group facilitator will mean that you are able to fully participate in the discussions, rather than having to focus on the meeting process which is imperative in such critical situations.  Careful group facilitation can be the difference between achieving your meeting’s purpose or not – and after all, that is at the core of what effective meetings are all about!

If you are considering using a meeting facilitator download our Facilitation Fact Sheet for details about:

  • Why to use a professional facilitator
  • How to make the most effective use of independent workshop facilitation
  • When an external meeting facilitator can add most value to your meetings.

So, there are four simple yet powerful things that will make your meetings are effective meetings which promote good team building. Apply them now and you’ll become known as someone who always runs the most effective meetings.

Resources from Amazon for more effective meetings

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