Apple Company Team Dynamics

Introduction

Organizations are overly interested in hiring persons who can work effectively in a team environment. The goal is to ensure that decisions made by a given work group or team do not depend on the thoughts of one individual. Rather, they need to incorporate the perspectives of different people for them (decisions) to produce positive impacts on the success of an organization. Work teams are not a province of one industry. They are found in all organizations in every industry, whether in the private or public sector. For instance, the process of selecting and recruiting employees requires the contribution of a selection committee, as opposed to direct appointments by the hiring managers (DeChurch and Mesmer-Magnus 535).

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Delivering a court decision depends on the stance by a jury but not a decision by a single judge. Investigations into grand incidents of fraud require the input of a commission. The above examples illustrate the necessity of work teams that comprise various group members. DeChurch and Mesmer-Magnus assert that the chief objective of deploying small work groups in organizations is to increase the available information pool (535).

This diverse information enables teams to achieve high-quality simulations and solutions to different organizational problems. Guided by this premise, this paper presents a research on team dynamics for the Apple Company. While enacting and implementing strategies that produce various solutions, creativity and innovation are vital. The Apple Company is one of the organizations whose competitive advantage depends on the capacity to ensure that employees come up with new products. The company appreciates the value of innovation and creativity in its future success.

Dalal reckons that Apple has come up with an inventive industrial unit that is capable of harnessing employees’ unbridled creativity (par.5). The unit provides room for generating new ideas while at the same time stimulating and making it possible to launch successful strategic decisions and profitable innovations in a teamwork environment. This claim explains why the company incredibly seeks solutions for its problems that arise from team dynamics.

Theories

Teams comprise two or more groups of people who have come together to fulfill a given function or purpose. They constitute interdependent members who influence one another. Work team members share the accountability of realizing common set goals, which are related to the overall objectives of an organization that employs them (Gramberg 112). Examples of work teams are departmental teams, leadership teams, production teams, advisory teams, and self-directed teams. Although teams constitute groups of people, in the context of the Apple Company, not all groups are teams.

Teams at the company are established to fulfill a particular purpose such as product gathering, examination and value control, novelty and design, and facilitating logistics and supplies among other tasks. In the context of the discussion of this paper, the term work group is deployed to mean teams that demonstrate task interdependence, which leads to the attainment of an organizational goal.

Work groups at the Apple Company constitute individuals or people who accept to engage in common tasks. Groups are either official or informal in nature. Formal work groups are established to execute only specific tasks. The groups have formal structures that are arranged according to work divisions. They foster a sense of uniqueness, promote allegiance among members, are purposed, and/or have leadership in charge of ensuring that all members have universal aims, goals, and objectives.

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Employees establish informal work groups. The groups do not possess any formal structure. Examples of informal work groups include workmate groups and agency factions. Irrespective of the type of work group, their formation requires storming, ‘norming’, performing, and postponing. Groups are held together by common behaviors, which depend on the size of the group, its purpose, and the nature of the work it does. For instance, large groups require ways for enhancing clear communication. They demand high formalization structures since members pay attention more on tasks as opposed to personal issues that affect them.

Organizations increasingly depend on the model of work team to increase their efficiency and/or build long-term values. Indeed, the network structure and the horizontal and clustered work group models are based on the concept of work teams (DeChurch and Mesmer-Magnus 542). However, work teams present many dynamics, which may hinder organizational success. One of such dynamics, which has led to the emergence of a large scholarly body of research on how to address them, encompasses work team diversity differences and their management to reduce organizational conflicts.

In the globalized business environments, diversity is a dynamic aspect that organizations cannot avoid. It refers to the myriads of differences that exist among people who work in an organization with regard to parameters such as sexual characteristics, ethnicity, social values, age, earnings levels, work familiarity, parental significance, spiritual beliefs, civilization, and physical abilities among others as shown in figure 1.

Dimensions of Diversity. Source: (Ibarra and Hansen 71).
Fig. 1: Dimensions of Diversity. Source: (Ibarra and Hansen 71).

Concerning the conditions for effective management of diversities, scholarly research provides evidence of the capacity of diverse work teams to increase organizational results. For instance, Ibarra and Hansen assert that leaders need to possess capabilities to bring together diversity in any workforce in a manner that ensures that organizations take advantage of what each diversity element can provide (69). Diversity management refers to the various comprehensive processes that are aimed at developing work environments and employees who possess different demographic characteristics and technical expertise among other differences.

Failure to manage organizational work team diversity may lead to a negative impairment of an organization’s performance. The appreciation of this challenge compels different organizations to capitalize on work team diversity as the source of their competitive advantage. For instance, Apple Company has endeavored to tackle the immense challenges concerning differences in work team diversity. The dynamics of work team diversity at the company emanates from the fact that the organization has establishments in almost every nation across the globe. Hence, to succeed in its work, it needs to establish work teams that have diverse cultural affiliations.

Scholarly studies provide evidence on the existence of a direct correlation between employee attendance, job performance, dedication, and perception of being valuable resources of an organization. For instance, Parvis confirms that failure by work teams and the management to value the role played by minorities and women in their operations attracts the risk of lowering their productivity (38). This claim infers that mismanagement of work group diversity translates into affecting an organization’s costs. Work groups can either act as teams or not. Lencioni defines a team as “a relatively small number of people who share common goals, as well as the rewards and responsibilities for achieving them” (23). Hence, the process of building a team calls for intensive investment in emotional energy and time by the group members. This position forms the foundation of overcoming dynamics of work team dysfunctions.

One of the work team dysfunctional dynamic is the lack of trust among members. Overcoming the dysfunction entails building trust among group members who seek to form teams. Lencioni assert that this process requires the depiction of vulnerability that is portrayed through the narration of some problems, which were encountered in the past (39). This strategy is vital in aiding teams to overcome the ‘fundamental attribution error’. This error entails relating or falsely attributing the behaviors shown by work group members to their traits while endeavoring to relate an individual’s behavior to some bad things that occurred in the past. In this sense, it becomes important for people to “give team members an objective and reliable means for understanding and describing one another” (Lencioni 25). Such a situation enables people to discuss their strengths and weaknesses.

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The second dysfunction encompasses the fear of conflicts and the issue of overcoming the apprehension. Lencioni asserts that overcoming fear requires the profiling of the dysfunction using tools such as MBTI (27). A third dysfunction entails the absence of commitment. This issue is well handled through enhancing clarity of information. Teams also fail due to accountability avoidance. Lencioni reveals how an open discussion of the qualities of the team members and the leader can help the team to perform well or even derail its performance (31). Inattention to results can have an immense source of dysfunctional work team dynamics. This situation occurs when self-interest coupled with self-preservation dominate a group. Maintenance of scorecards is a useful tool for ensuring that the group members remain focused and aligned with the results, which are easily visible and clear. While work team changes are many, this research paper focuses on conflict as part of work team dynamics at the Apple Company.

Methodology

Researches take different designs. They can adopt qualitative, quantitative, the use of mixed methods (pragmatic approach), and/or the advocacy approach. This research deploys the pragmatic approach. Freshwater, Sherwood, and Drury reckon that pragmatic researchers have the freedom to deploy any methodology, procedure, or technique that has aspects of qualitative and quantitative research (295). The freedom of choice of the method depends on the researcher’s recognition and evaluation of different methods to determine the one that best fits a given research. The best choice is the one that utilizes methodologies that complement one another. This aspect forms the basic logic for designing this research to use pragmatic approach that deploys aspects of quantitative and qualitative research approaches. Questionnaires are deployed as the primary tool for data collection.

Sample Size and Sample Selection

When conducting a quantitative research, the first step entails selecting the requisite sample size. The specific sample size depends on the anticipated statistical confidence. In this research, arriving at statistically significant deductions requires a reliable sample size. When selecting a sample size, it is important to identify certain parameters. These parameters include the confidence interval or error margin, the size of the studied population, the expected confidence level, and the Standard Deviation (SD) (Saunders, Thornhill, and Lewis 35). In the current research, the number of employees at Apple Company is important. It is possible to prepare questionnaire for all employees after knowing their number based on the HR department’s statistics. However, it is common for quantitative research to have an unknown population (Saunders, Thornhill, and Lewis 37).

Research samples are not perfect. This case underlines the significance of determining the limits of the acceptable confidence levels. Scott asserts, “Confidence level determines how much higher or lower (than the population) those researchers are willing to let their sample mean to fall” (89). This research deploys +/-5 error margins, implying that a 95% confidence level is used. The SD implies the degree to which the responses of the people answering the questionnaires need to vary. A 0.5 SD value is used in the current research. Different confidence levels yield different Z values. A 95% confidence level has a Z vale of 1.96. With this value, it becomes possible to compute the corresponding sample size using the formula:

Sample Size formula.
Sample Size.

Upon substituting the Z value, SD, and the error margin or the confidence level, the required sample size is 385 participants.

Research Procedure

A total of 385 questionnaires will be distributed to the Apple Company’s employees. It is expected that no questionnaire will be discarded since all participants are expected to fill them. All employees are guaranteed confidentiality of the information provided and are required to maintain anonymity by not indicating their names or those of their work team on the questionnaire. Where necessary, pseudonyms will be used in the data interpretation and analysis process. The questionnaires are shown in appendix 1.

Analysis

From the results of question 1 and 2, as indicated in table 1 below, majority of the those answering the questionnaires were male (65%) with a good share of them comprising men aged between 28-37 years (78%). Question 3 indicates that all the responding employees at Apple Company work in teams.

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From question 4, the majority of people have departmental work teams (49.6%) and production teams (45.2%). In question five, employees were asked whether they had ever experienced conflicts with any of their work team members. The results indicate that all employees have experienced the challenge at least once in their work life at Apple Company. From question 6, the majority of employees (52%) resolve the conflicts internally within their work team while 23% think it is necessary to seek mediation and intervention of the HR. The rest (25%) choose ignoring or avoidance as the solution to the conflict. Question 7 makes it clear that diversity comprises an important team aspect, which may cause conflicts. About 79% of those who answered the questionnaire have experienced a diversity-related workplace conflict in the past.

Based on the responses to question eight, 223 (58%) employees note that they feel hatred towards the employees from other work teams with which they have experienced workplace conflicts in the past. However, 221 (99%) of them reckon that they no longer feel hatred towards people they have had conflicts in the past, especially if they belong to their work teams. This finding indicates the development of an ability to cope with differences between work team members. Such differences may give rise to conflicts. From question 9, 100% of the respondents reported to have experienced conflicts at Apple Company.

All respondents identified the conflicts between Apple’s former CEO, Steve Job and John Sculley. However, 84% of them reckon that Sculley’s victory was astonishing since Steve Job was compelled to leave an organization that he had founded. The popularity of this incident indicates that Apple’s employees are aware of thee unavoidability of workplace conflicts. It shows that conflicts can occur at individual, teamwork, and managerial levels.

Questionnaire Responses.
Table 1: Questionnaire Responses.

The results of the research indicate that work team members’ conflicts are commonplace at Apple Company. Although some employees report having developed ways of dealing with the challenge at the levels of work groups, before norming, the challenge has potential negative implications. Cloke and Goldsmith suggest that workplace conflicts encompass the main factor that hinders or promotes teamwork in any organization (51). Destructive conflicts impair the development of teamwork culture while constructive conflict helps to develop an effective teamwork culture. Destructive conflict occurs when people fail to get along.

Conflicting ideas become productive in the event that parties in conflicts are willing to engage in brainstorming. In such situations, compromised ideas are at times better in enhancing the success of an organization compared to an original idea. Where the primary source of the conflicts at Apple Company was due to conflicting ideas, this situation may explain why some team members can resolve conflicts internally within their work teams with time.

Those who reported to have experienced conflicts with other employees identified hatred as an important feeling towards other employees and hence, the probability of personality clashes comprising a significant source of conflict dynamics of work teams at Apple Company. Personality clashes are an impediment to effective work teams. They initiate with disputes regarding certain business practices, which then skyrocket into mutual loathing (Collins and Rourke 89).

In some cases, two people may not like each other right from the beginning due to diversity differences and other personality disparities. As indicated by employees who reported having experienced diversity-related conflicts at Apple, this position implies that workplace diversity may be a big factor in promoting or hindering the development of effective work teams.

Personality clashes also contribute to workplace disputes, which may escalate to become conflicts since people possess different beliefs, values, and approaches to handling problems. When people fail or have difficulties in appreciating and embracing other people’s work methods, clashes emerge. They hinder the development of effective work teams. However, a question emerges on how employees at Apple can deal with work team conflict.

Although there are many ways of dealing with conflicts at workplaces such as collaboration, compromise, competing, avoidance, and accommodation, any strategy that emphasis leaving conflicts unaddressed is inappropriate. Unfortunately, 25% of questionnaire respondents resolve teamwork conflicts through avoidance. Conflicts often produce negative implications to the performance of an organization (Collins and Rourke 79). Since the goal of organizational leadership is principally to look for mechanisms for resolving challenges, which may hinder the performance of an organization so that it delivers value to its owners (shareholders), conflict avoidance constitutes a risky approach to conflict management in team scenario. Since avoidance is not an appropriate mechanism for resolving work team conflicts, the question that emerges is, ‘what other opportunities are available for Apple Company?’

Scholars have developed various models to describe the mechanisms for resolving conflicts. Thomas-Kilmann proposed one of such models, which Apple can apply in dealing with the work team dynamics of conflict. The model claims that conflicts can be handled using methods such as accommodation, avoidance, collaboration, competition, and compromise. Accommodation involves the decision by a work team member to cooperate with another member in conflict in the highest possible degree. Under the approach, one of the team member works against his or her desired goals and outcomes (Collins and Rourke 81).

The strategy works well when one party in conflict has a better solution to a given problem. It helps in building strong ties between two or more parties in conflict. Alternatively, one may choose to ignore the need to resolve a given conflict. This approach entails resolving conflicts via avoiding them. This style works well when the effective solution is costly or when one perceives that he or she has minimal probabilities of winning, or when an issue in conflict is trivial. However, avoiding is not an effective strategy in the long term (Collins and Rourke 83).

Collaboration includes partnering to follow a goal that has been pursued by another party. During collaboration at Apple Company, effort is made to accommodate all work team members’ ideas for synthesis in the attempt to develop a single superior idea for resolving a conflict. Such an idea also needs to take into consideration all points of agreement and disagreement between the collaborating parties (Collins and Rourke 94). This way, it becomes possible to break away from the win-lose strategy to explore the win-win strategy. This approach requires an incredibly high capacity to trust one another in the development of a superior idea for resolving a conflict.

The approach is opposed to the competing technique in which the focus is on the win-lose approach to conflict resolution (Gramberg 68). Competing approaches work well in times of dire need to make quick decisions. In the case of compromising, parties in conflict focus on the lose-lose strategy. The approach is best suited whenever parties in conflict pursue goals and objectives, which have no probability of converging.

From question 6, 23% of the interviewees at Apple Company referred teamwork conflicts to the HR in the effort to resolve them. Upon establishing issues that attract conflicts between various employees, the HR’s focus shifts to establishing mechanisms for healing the wounds caused by a conflict. In this process, Gramberg (209) identifies reconciliation, arbitration, and mediation as important techniques for handling work team conflicts at Apple Company’s employees.

Reconciliation involves the admission of wrongdoing followed by forgiveness. Mediation involves bringing two parties in conflict together though a third party by re-visiting the series of events or disputes that lead to a conflict. This step is then followed by suggesting codes of behavior or reactions that should have prevented the conflict. In each case, the parties in conflict identify their mistakes and put effort to ensure they would not repeat the same mistakes in the future work team interaction processes (Gramberg 217). Arbitration through an independent party, including a court becomes important where conflicts have translated into personal injuries or where the paying of damages is necessary.

Recommendations

Benchmarking from Google Company’s experience with diversity management, Apple can acquire a wealth of information on how to deploy concepts of diversity management to produce good results to organizational performance. Workforce management can minimize work-related conflicts associated with different cultures or teams. This move can help to establish better ways of addressing the need for diverse customers. The strategy can increase sales level through increased clientele. Indeed, Apple managers can create homogeneity within work teams to facilitate the participation of all employees in driving the competitive advantage strategy. In this sense, Apple managers can ensure that diversity increases problem-solving capabilities of their organizations in a bid to facilitate the realization of excellent results.

Just like in Google, work team conflicts are inevitable at Apple. Although approaches to solving conflicts are different, work team leaders and the Apple HR should adopt proactive passive approach, as opposed to a reactive approach. The recommended proactive passive approach is the one, which emphasizes handing causations of conflicts in work teams effectively. Mediation, arbitration, and reconciliation are reactive since they are deployed after a conflict has already occurred or has already caused damage to the effectiveness of work teams. Avoiding, competing, collaboration, compromising, and accommodating are equally reactive approaches.

The best approach to the management of work team conflicts should involve understanding the benefits of adopting multicultural environment that is tolerant to workforce diversities. By following this approach, Apple gains immensely in the form of increased productivity of the diverse work team members. This strategy boosts the profitability of the company. Incorporating this recommendation requires all management staff members, right from top to down, to understand the relevance of work team diversity from moral and business perspectives.

To incorporate the above recommendation, it is necessary to create awareness and/or skills that focus any training on diversity. This strategy needs to be implemented by the managers of Apple in the quest to ensure that workforce socialization does not occur based on diversity differentiation. This situation can create increased understanding among people from diverse cultural backgrounds and increased group cohesion. It can also improve self-knowledge. When employees embrace the diversity needs of all their work team members, they can examine their objectives with care. Through this approach, they can understand what is most important to them, thus improving their focus and enhancing their efficiency. This method is an important catalyst for increasing job satisfaction.

Conclusion

Work team conflicts are a reality in every work environment that brings together people from diverse backgrounds. While people continue working in teams and care about the manner they are treated by their work team members, disagreements will always arise. These disagreements create conflicts among work team members. Conflicts refer to various issues that emerge in work teams that create emotions such as anger, discontent, and frustration. Such emotions produce either positive or negative impacts to Apple. For instance, positive impacts may encompass the provision of an opportunity for organizational growth. Negative impacts involve issues such as the reduction of employee motivation, turnover, low job satisfaction, and reduced productivity of the work team members. Apple should focus on resolving work team issues that lead to the emergence of conflicts for it to deal effectively with these conflicts.

Various issues such as different organizational interests, scarcity of resources, poor performance, communication, and personality clashes contribute to conflicts in work teams. When two or more people constitute a work team and that the team fails to perform up to its potential without addressing issues, which lead to poor performance, conflicts become unavoidable. Communication is the bond that holds all people working in an organization together. Different communication strategies and styles translate into misunderstanding between organizational leadership or management and employees, or amongst employees. Where there is no communication at all, conflicts build later to manifest themselves in terms of employee turnover, poor job satisfaction, and lower employee motivation. Consequently, it is important for Apple to address the causes of conflicts to build highly performing work teams.

Works Cited

Cloke, Kenneth, and Joan Goldsmith. Resolving Conflicts at Work: Eight Strategies for Everyone on the Job, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.

Collins, Sandra, and James Rourke. Managing Conflict and Workplace Relationships, Ohio: Mason, 2005. Print.

Dalal, Sanjay. Apple’s Innovation Strategy – Learn How Apple Innovates. 2015. Web.

DeChurch, Leslie, and Jessica Mesmer-Magnus. “Information Sharing and Team Performance: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Applied Psychology 94.2(2009): 535–546. Print.

Freshwater, Douglas, George Sherwood, and Veronica Drury. “International research collaboration: Issues, benefits and challenges of the global network.” Journal of Research in Marketing 11.4(2006): 295-303. Print.

Gramberg, Bernadine. Managing Workplace Conflict: Alternative Dispute Resolution in Australia, Annandale, N.S. W.: Federation Press, 2006. Print.

Ibarra, Henry, and Martins Hansen. “Are You a Collaborative Leader?” Harvard Business Review 89.7(2011): 68-74. Print.

Lencioni, Patrick. Overcoming the five Dysfunctions of a team: A Field for leaders, manager, and facilitators, New York, NJ: Jossey-Bass, 2005. Print.

Parvis, James. “Diversity and effective leadership in multicultural workplaces.” Journal of Environmental Health 65.4 (2007): 33-43. Print.

Saunders, Mathew, Arthur Thornhill, and Peter Lewis. Research Methods for Business Students, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2009. Print.

Scott, Sikes. “Research Methodology: Sampling Techniques.” Journal of Scientific Research 2.1(2011): 87-92. Print.

Appendix

Appendix 1: The questionnaire

  1. Please indicate your gender
    • Male
    • Female
    • Transgender
  2. How old are you?
    • 18-27
    • 28-37
    • Above 38
  3. Do you work as a team
    • YES
    • NO
  4. If your response to question 3 is YES, what is the nature of work group?
    • Departmental
    • Self-directed
    • Production
    • Any other? Please indicate………………….
  5. Have you ever had some differences with any member of your work team?
    • YES
    • NO
  6. If your answer to question 5 is YES, how did you deal with the conflict?
    • Referred the matter to the Human relations manager
    • Resolved the conflict internally within the team
    • Ignored the conflicts and moved on with work as usual
  7. Apart from your work team members, have you ever been involved in conflicts with people from a different cultural, sexual, religious, and ethnic diversity working at Apple?
    • YES
    • NO
  8. If YES to question 7, what do you feel when you see the person (s) you were in conflict with? Please explain in not more than 120 words
  9. Apart from your direct experience in conflicts with team members or other people working for Apple, have you witnessed a major conflict between two people working for the company?
    • YES
    • NO
  10. If YES to 9, please explain the situation in not more than 150 words
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