Managing Conflicts in Top Management Teams

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The management challenge was to preserve positive conflict above all issues and prevent bringing forth unhealthy conflict between people, and more so to inspire leaders to debate without hampering the team spirit. The paper focused on the study of the relationship that exists between disagreements, politics, and the rate at which major resolutions are made by the top leadership. Most of the companies had to contend with a dynamic and competitive global market, hence were required to come up with resolutions amidst unclear circumstances, a lot of stress, and pressure. This meant that the top management had to contend with how to work best with project teams to ensure productivity is enhanced during changing times, competition, and due pressure.

The companies were categorized into two, and it was noted that one group had very positive enforcers, regarded each other with high esteem as a resource in the team, shared responsibilities among other things whereas the other group had low regard for each other, did not share responsibilities and therefore their efficiency levels were down. The project sought to establish how the top management works with teams in conflicting times when output is needed to be high to achieve results. It was evident that the best-performing teams sorted out essential issues from those linked to personalities. For the companies to achieve the best performance the teams had to: work with a lot of data and argued based on facts, establish several options to enhance their argument, mutually shared ordinarily agreed-upon objectives, made fun during the period of discussion, had a well-adjusted power structure and they decided matters without coercing agreement.

The two groups of companies handled conflicts differently, and depending on how they handled the conflict, it ended up with success or failure.

One real company in the first group was called Triumph Computer (nick name). The group which consisted of Star, Triumph Computer, Premier Technologies and Bravo did not capitalize on personal conflicts and performed well while the group comprising of Solo Systems, Mega Software among others majored on personal conflict and performed poorly in their management. The engineering developments were tracked by a new CEO in the company, which the company relied for its products. It was possible for the management to have a common basis, by which they would have while working. The reliance of facts was also experienced at Star where the team used facts regarding external environment. Such moves were tracked on a number of areas for the competitor firms (including the competitor campaigns and changes in prices).

The company was said as to avoid useless arguments and rather have debate on issues that were critical. Premier Technologies had little interpersonal conflicts. Mangers in companies which do not major on personal conflicts have been said to capitalize on facts and they use reality to rely and judge current data. The facts include the R&D expenses, market researches among other things that do not have personal conflicts. Absence of facts may generate ideologies such as using suspicion and individual interests are likely to surface. Triumph Computers, as a company which did not have high conflict on the interpersonal scale, focused on diversifying alternatives to improve performance, and four lines were added in this respect, including selling some of the technology of the company, redeploying resources in the engineering sector and using technology to enter new markets as a strategy generator. Thus such companies focus on expanding the alternatives, while those with conflicts “lack common goals” (Kathleen, Jean, and Bourgeois (1997) and it was possible for them to end with personal conflict by majoring on debating on two alternates. “Desert pig-outs” and “group weight watching” held by the top managers in Triumph Computers were fun-generators despite pressures encountered at the company. This humor tends to reduce stressful as well as threatening moments through defense mechanisms employed there.

For the group that succeeded, they debated before arriving at remarkable decisions basing data that could be proved and was specific. This helped them to focus their discussions on matters and not individuals. They collected data on everything they owned, each week they devoted themselves to observing on pointers like reservations, accumulations, limits, indicators of progress, income and expenditure and the on-going-work, others had data on their competitors and their products that necessitated discussions on the new range of products to be made and had information on the products. This made the top management discuss and arrive at conclusions based on realities. On the other hand those companies with no facts or data, spend most of their time discussing personalities, used a lot of time in futile arguments that leave them making guesses of what is happening, their leaders seem to be out of touch with reality and hence do not provide substantive evidence that can help improve the products, this in turn leads to individual blame games, demoralizing workers and lowering input.

Again, top performing companies always introduced a range of options in the discussions. This generates a lot of debate and sometimes disagreements. The poorly performing organizations will leave it at the point of disagreement. But the ability of the executive team to lead the rest into a meaningful discussion that will resolve issues together brings ownership of decisions and experimenting of varieties of ideas to bring forth variety of products in the market.

Also, the successful companies formulated shared objectives out of outlining deliberate selections as concerted efforts and not out of competitive maneuvers. This central rallying point comes out of many discussions and many managers giving up personal ambitions to achieve a common vision. In cases of poorly managed organizations competition thrives and individual managers would want to keep their visions to be seen to be the best and this becomes the breeding ground for rivalries an ingredient for conflicts.

During discussions, for the well managed organizations, it was lively and had a lot of fun and humor. This discharges tensions and encourages discussion. They used all manner of humor including their customers’ products and souvenirs’ which formed part of their office decorations, went out for picnics among other events. The conflict packed ones did not consider humor and fun though some were friends they never had concerted social events except normal holidays. Humor always makes the members come to a common agreement other than disagreements because it simplifies hard facts when ironically presented. When discussions seem tensed and serious, people put on their defense mechanisms and may never give meaningful discussions and end up taking things personal.

Paramount is the ability to stabilize power structure. Dictatorship structures make the leader to wield immense power that hinders discussion, making members to fear the consequences of their contribution and sometimes it cause’s power struggles that enhance conflicts. On the other hand, power can be distributed in a way that every member has authority over something and therefore has the freedom to approach the CEO and talk about his area of concern without feeling intimidated. This enhances productivity and reduces tension.

Reaching agreement with a rider is important in resolving conflicts. In well managed organizations the top management discussed and issue extensively and if they were unable to arrive and a consensus then the senior most of them makes the decision and all agree to that. This makes all to own the decision even though they had divergent opinions; this makes them to deliver timely products on the market making more profits. But in conflict filled organizations, consensus was never reached after many meetings of discussions because they don’t trust each other, but when finally a decision is made many of the top team usual had left because their opinion was not factored in and the product being debated comes late on the market making them to lose out on the market, making loses and this further aggravates tensions and conflicts.

Research shows that conflicts are important because they provide the top management with a variety of ways on how to do things and also how to resolve them. And conflicts are necessary because they may contain honest discussions (Kathleen, Jean and Bourgeois, 1997). In instances where there are no conflicts then decision making is poor, because members miss the opportunity to questions practices that could jeopardize the companies profitability, and when this happens, the manager becomes a passive leader, the team is less motivated in the decision making process and hence the company may suffer loses that leads to a blame game on the management. In growing organizations, fruitful agreements are made by groups of managers that support dynamic, lively, and all-encompassing engagement over matters deprived of sacrificing promptness. To achieve this one has to alleviate individual disagreements, besides the company achieves efficiency in output production and becomes effective in dealing with conflicts.

The teams in this project were very dynamic. One team had the best practices in place, was keen on decentralizing the leadership power and making everyone to have some power to do something still, respecting the CEO yet the other one had centralized power and always lived in fear of the executive and this exaggerated the rate of conflicts. I think the usual business is a bureaucracy, where we have ranks, and sometimes major decisions are made and communicated to the juniors by a secretary or a messenger, whenever there exists some conflicts among the juniors then the top management deals with that. The two groups sound very dynamic since they display the two extremes of handling conflict. It portrays leaders and not necessarily managers. Under normal circumstances we encounter managers whose responsibility is to do things right and therefore will always struggle to make everything right at the expense of others.

The project issues as regards conflicts were dealt with in different ways depending on the group. As discussed earlier each groups depending on the type of leaders it had it resolved its conflicts variously. There are those that valued personal interests at the expense of the organizations growth and profits, the leaders who did not care about the members orientation, did not do enough research to have facts to debate with hence ended up having opinions, discussing personalities and making guesses of what is likely to happen. The compromise made by the conflicting organization is that they seem not to care about the necessities, what it is that they have and they know about it, they did not keep records, they valued to do supposedly personal things at the expense of the good of the organization, compromised on the knowledge of their opponent and so launched products already launched by the opponent.

Whereas the conflict resolving team knew what they ought to do and did it correctly, motivated there team members towards achieving the company goals, had concerted efforts geared towards remaining in partnership and avoiding conflicts by solving it whenever it arose, had fun and team building activities to demystify any tensions between any of the leaders, these allows for smooth flow of information. Human beings being social beings, had their needs met in the conflict free organization making them to have the freedom to freely express their views, their worries, dislikes and once these are met then they can be free to discuss the company issues without fear since there personal issues have been taken care of.

The projects were covered very effectively and targets achieved since the leaders who reduced conflicts provided an ample environment where the members could share and do research about the range of products needed on the market and how to get them there, kept records of all the transactions engaged in which provided the basis for future discussions since records would show where they have come from and therefore helping in projecting the future. But on the other hand the conflict filled companies had demoralized managers, whose interests were at conflict with each other, this hampered the fulfillment of any project since, they did not keep records, did not provide environment for members to talk about their issues in a tension free environment. Both organizations needed to value individuals’ affair’s before the organizations.

From the semester class experience, I valued the way groups are formed in an organization and the way the leader should be responsible in matching people and tasks in an organization. When the groups are forming, the leaders’ responsibility is to monitor the process and match teams in various projects. For example

  • Forming. The group is formed and a new organisation comes into being. Diverse backgrounds, experiences and cultures are forced to interact; at this level I think it is the leader’s duty to understand his team and their personalities so as to know where to match them, in the project, the conflict fighting ones understood this and interacted to blend their uniqueness and had fun whereas the other one refrained from it. There is need to increase collaboration among teams through adoption of “team-building strategies” (Druckman & Bjork, 1994; cited in Clark, 2003).
  • Storming. The new group begins to rub up against each other. Leaders jostle for space and competitors feel out the boundaries. At this point the leader identifies the points of conflicts and uses them to enhance togetherness, seals loopholes the competitor can use against them by uniting the team and allowing them to do what they are best in and share their ideas freely without intimidation. The leaders who resolved conflicts in the project had discussions at this point, researched on the products to release in the market and collated all the efforts of individual members to achieve higher standards, whereas the other group were too late to know their competitors’ products and did not agree on time therefore released their products late in the market. Motivation is important in reducing conflict since it helps in creativity for all teams and continuity and it can be shown in any project where there is venture in new activities, they do not resist doing what has been familiar to them, among other things (Clark, 1998; cited in Clark, 2003).
  • Norming. The group settles, and the hierarchy is established. A leader emerges and each role begins to deliver the expected outputs. As this happens the leader gives freedom of expression to members, decentralizes power, and is able to get information freely.
  • Performing. The group starts to ‘hum’. The various roles adjust and optimise to deliver high value deliverables and outcomes. Esprit de crops emerges. Performance can be increased through incentives, as well as strategies for motivating the work force (Clark & Estes, 2002; cited in Clark, 2003).
  • Re-forming the fun starts all over again.


Clark, R. (2003). Fostering the work motivation of individuals and teams. Performance Improvement, 42(3): 21-29.

Clark, E., and Estes, F. (2003) Turning research into results: A guide to selecting the right performance solutions. Atlanta GA, CEP Press.

Clark, E. (1998) Motivating performance. Performance Improvement, 37(8), 39-47.

Druckman, D., and Bjork, R. (eds) (1994) Learning, remembering, and believing: Enhancing human performance. Washington, DC, National Academy Press Kathleen.

Jean, K., and Bourgeois, L. (1997) How management teams can have a good fight. Harvard Business Review, 77-85.

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