Interpersonal relationship is an important aspect of team effectiveness which has been widely discussed in the organisational literature. Poor interpersonal relationship might cause a number of issues in the workplace and create difficulties to manage people effectively in the organisation. As a result, many studies have been conducted to investigate the consequence of poor interpersonal relationship within the organisational context and identify the possible ways to improve interpersonal relationship and consequently contribute to the organisational performance.
Within this essay, I have provided a critical reflection of my own experience during the group work. I have focused on a number of issues which has impeded the interpersonal relationship between me and the team members. Through critical reflection, I have identified the underlying reasons of these interpersonal relationship issues and I have evaluated some possible means to address these issues with the support of relevant academic theories and evidences.
Reflective Essay: Interpersonal Relationship and Team Effectiveness
In the contemporary business environment, the contribution of teamwork to the organisational performance has been widely recognised. Moreover, the form of teams in the workplace has been increasingly used by organisations to perform complex tasks effectively and efficiently (De Dreu and Van Viane, 2001). As a result, the topic of teamwork has been widely explored in the management literature and a significant amount of efforts have been made to investigate what factors might impede effective teamwork and what factors might contribute to the team effectiveness. There is a variety of topics have been identified to be related with team effectiveness, such as decision making, group formation, group roles, the use of power, knowledge sharing, and the impact of culture. This essay will focus on the topic of interpersonal relationship and team effectiveness specifically.
In order to provide a reflective discussion of the topic, this essay will firstly make use of relevant theories to discuss how issues caused by poor interpersonal relationship, such as interpersonal conflict and interpersonal aggression, might impede team effectiveness. My relevant personal experience during the group assignment will be used as evidences to illustrate how interpersonal relationship issues would influence team effectiveness. After that, the implications of the issues identified from the analysis will be discussed. More specifically, a number of approaches will be suggested which can help to address the issues and contribute to the effective management of people within organisations. Finally, a brief conclusion will be provided to summarise the main points discussed in the essay.
- Interpersonal Relationship and Team Effectiveness
Good working relationship among team members is crucial to the effectiveness of team work. It is suggested that good interpersonal relationships can help team members to rely on each other so that they would be more willing to share knowledge and learn from each other (Phillips and Edwards, 2008). This can contribute to the effectiveness of teamwork in the sense that the interdependence among team members can enhance the communication within the team so that the strength of each team member can be fully utilised. However, it is not easy to develop good interpersonal relationship within a team. Moreover, interpersonal aggression and conflict might occur as a result of poor interpersonal relationship within the team. These issues of interpersonal relationship will be discussed in detail in the following sections and my personal experience from the process of finishing the group assignment will be used as examples to illustrate how these issues might damage the interpersonal relationship within a team and consequently reduce the team effectiveness.
2.1 Interpersonal Conflict
Poor interpersonal relationship within a team would cause conflict between team members which could be a challenge to team effectiveness. Although conflict might have both positive and negative impacts on team work, it is suggested that the negative consequences of conflict for team effectiveness are mostly observed when the conflict is related to the interpersonal relationship aspects of team work (De Dreu and Van Viane, 2001). More specifically, interpersonal conflict might induce negative emotions which could result in inappropriate personal attitudes and behaviours towards the achievement of the team task thus reducing the team effectiveness (Pelled, 1995). It is suggested that interpersonal conflict cannot be prevented since individual team members would possess a unique assembly of mental faculties, biological composition, and previous life experiences which would result in disagreement on goals, ideas, values, and wishes (Anderson, 2009).
Based on my experience of doing the group assignment, I have encountered some conflict at the interpersonal level. More specifically, in the first group meeting, we had a discussion of what should be done in order to complete the group assignment. Also, we need to select a team leader. I was fully prepared before attending the meeting since I want to get a high mark on the group assignment. I expressed my ideas to the team but they thought it was too demanding to complete the assignment based on my suggestions. As a result, my suggestions had been turned down by other members. I was totally comfortable with this since I know that compromise is necessary in a team work. However, when it came to the selection of leader, I think inappropriate decisions had been made due to interpersonal conflict. I put myself forward to be the team leader but no one supported me. Instead, they had chosen another team member to be the leader since he had similar thoughts as the other members in terms of finishing the assignment with a lower standard. I was quite disappointed not because I was not chosen as the leader but due to the fact that they made the decision based on their own interests rather than on the interests of the whole group. They thought if I became the leader they would have to make extra efforts to achieve the task with a higher standard so it was better not to choose me as the leader. This decision is totally against me as a person rather than for the benefits of the whole group and they had shifted the attention away from the task onto me as a person.
I admit that I was not happy with this interpersonal conflict and my enthusiasm to make contributions to the team work had been reduced. This is not beneficial to the team effectiveness which illustrates how the performance of team might be negatively influenced by interpersonal conflict. Previous studies suggest that with the influence of interpersonal conflict, the attention of team members would focus on reducing threats, increasing power, and attempt to develop cohesion rather than focus on how to achieve the task (Jehn, 1997). In my case, I can be considered as a threat to the other team members so they attempted to reduce my power and influence on the team by not supporting me to be the leader. Through this way, the cohesion within the team can be developed but at the cost of reducing the quality of group assignment.
2.2 Interpersonal Aggression
Interpersonal aggression has been considered as a serious issue in the organisational context which would have negative effects on individuals, such as increasing absenteeism, turnover intentions, job satisfactions, and distress (Schat and Kelloway, 2005). It is suggested that interpersonal aggressive behaviours are likely to hamper team effectiveness due to their negative impacts on team members and team functioning (Aube and Rousseau, 2011). More specifically, previous studies suggest that interpersonal aggressive behaviours which are demonstrated by some team members might encourage other team members getting involved in similar behaviours, which would gradually impair the overall functioning of the team (Aube and Rousseau, 2011). Moreover, the prevalence of interpersonal aggressive behaviours within a team would gradually modify the norms of the team which could encourage similar behaviours among other team members. This would finally make individual team members lost in personal emotions and ignore the real objectives of the team thus reducing the team effectiveness (Sperry, 2009).
My own experience during the group assignment has provided evidences to support the theories with regard to interpersonal aggression. For example, during the group work, the leader was quite aggressive and always attempted to remain in a dominant position in the group. The rest of the team members did not have too much enthusiasm about the group assignment so they tend to agree with everything proposed by the leader. However, I was concerned with the appropriateness of some decisions made by the leader so I argued with him accordingly. When the leader had been challenged, he tended to become aggressive and attempted to solve the conflict by exerting his power from being a leader. However, French and Raven (1959) suggests that there are five bases to exert power, including reward, coerce, legitimate, referent, and expertise (Zimmerling, 2005). However, I did not perceive any bases which underpinning the leader’s power so I kept challenging his authority.
The argument between the leader and me finally became interpersonal since I blamed him for not being a good leader while he criticised me of not showing respect to him. We totally forgot the reason of the argument and simply concentrated on criticising each other’s personal attributes and styles. At the end of the group meeting, we failed to achieve anything related to the group assignment so that we had to arrange another group meeting in order to catch up the schedule. I learned from this experience that interpersonal aggressive behaviours would make the involved people lost temper and influence the validity of the team work. For example, initially I was just expressing my own opinions while such opinions might not be fully appropriate and I was ready to receive any criticisms from the other team members. However, when I was involved in the argument with the leader at interpersonal level, I insisted on that my opinions were right even if they were not actually. As a result, if my advices had been taken as a result of leader’s compromise, then such advices might be faulty and impede the team effectiveness. That is to say, interpersonal aggressive behaviours should be controlled and avoided in team work in order to ensure team effectiveness.
- Approaches to Improve the Interpersonal Relationship and Their Implications for Effective Management of People in Orgaisations
Based on the theoretic framework as well as the analysis of my personal experience during the group work, it is obvious that interpersonal relationship is one of the important determinants which would affect team effectiveness. The identified issues of interpersonal conflict and interpersonal aggression are related with people management within a team. As a result, if these issues can be addressed then it will provide important implications for improving interpersonal relationship within a team as well as the effective management of people within organisations. It is identified that team building, leadership, and emotional intelligence can help to address the interpersonal relationship issue within an organisational context. The implications of these approaches will be evaluated in detail in the following sections.
3.1 Team Building
Team building is an important process to the development of an effective team within the organisation. It involves acting within an organisation as a whole, to create a situation where the team members are able to act effectively (Hayes, 2002). Within the organisational literature, there are four main approaches to team building, including the interpersonal relationship approach, the role-definition approach, the values approach, and the task-oriented approach (Hayes, 2002). The interpersonal relationship approach to team building is believed to beneficial for improving interpersonal relationship within a team. More specifically, the interpersonal relationship approach focus on the way that the team members interact with each other and this approach can be used to make sure team members can interact at an honest, personal level (Hayes, 2002). Moreover, the approach suggests that in order to improve the interpersonal relationship between team members, it is necessary to promote the concept of recognition and trust within the team (Phillips and Edwards, 2008). For example, recognition of the existence and roles of each individual team member as well as his or her contribution to the team would provide a basis for developing mutual respect within the team which in turn would facilitate the development of interpersonal relationship among team members. Also, timely, accurate, and honest communication practice should be promoted within a team in order to develop trust among team members (Phillips and Edwards, 2008). Through this approach, good interpersonal relationship within the team can be developed to contribute to the overall effectiveness of the team. Moreover, organisations are comprised of a variety of working teams so if people can be managed effectively within each team then the effectiveness of people management in the workplace of the whole organisation can be achieved.
During my group work for the assignment, there is not any team building process involved. Although we are in the same team, some of the team members are close friends with good interpersonal relationship between them. As a result, it seems that they are in a sub-group within the team which makes it difficult for other team members to being a part of them. This would impede the collaboration between team members and reduce the team effectiveness. More importantly, I feel being distrusted by them since they tend to discuss within their own sub-group and come out with a single opinion which would be supported by them. Since they have advantages in numbers of voting, it seems meaningless for the rest of team to give any suggestions. This has de-motivated me to be fully committed to the team work since the value of my work has been underestimated significantly. In addition, the communication within the team is not timely at all. For example, we had agreed to finish individual tasks and email the work to the rest of team before the next group meeting. However, not all of the team members have made the notification timely and some of them even failed to finish their own tasks in time which significantly disturb the progress of the team work. More importantly, this makes me feel unfair since it gives me a feeling that not all of the team members have given their full commitments to the group assignment which would damage the interpersonal relationship within the team.
Leadership is another approach to address the interpersonal relationship issues identified above. It is suggested that a good team leader should be able to demonstrate strong leadership and exert concrete influence on team members to develop good and comfortable interpersonal relationship between the leader and followers as well as between followers themselves (Nelson and Quick, 2008). The transformational leadership is very effective to solve the interpersonal conflicts and improve interpersonal relationship. It focuses on the relationships with followers in terms of motivation and commitment, encouraging followers to give more than mere compliance to improve organisational performance (Bass and Riggio, 2006). Such a transformational approach to leadership can not only improve the interpersonal relationship within a team but also has important implications to the people management in the organisational context. More specifically, transformational leadership can exert its influence at all level of hierarchies of the organisation. That is to say, it can improve the interpersonal relationship of people beyond the team context. Moreover, the interpersonal relationship at all levels of the organisation can also be improved through the influence of transformational leadership thus contributing to the effective management of people within the whole organisation. However, although the transformational leadership is an effective way to improve interpersonal relationship within a team as well as with a wider organisational context, it is difficult for leaders to develop such a strong leadership which might reduce the popularity of using such an approach to improve the interpersonal relationship.
According to my experience during the group work, I strongly feel there is a lack of leadership within the team which results in poor interpersonal relationship across the team. For example, a good leader should put the team into the right direction and allocate the tasks to individual team members based on their strength and weakness. However, in my group, the individual tasks are allocated on a first come first serve basis. More specifically, we agreed on the tasks to be completed before the next group meeting and then the team members would start to pick their preferred tasks. Those members who make decisions quickly can pick the tasks which are relatively easier and require fewer efforts. I think this task allocation process is neither fair nor effective. More importantly, the team member who has to pick the last task left would feel very uncomfortable and this might even make him finish the task with minimum efforts and reduce the quality of team work accordingly. Further, the interpersonal relationship between the member and the rest of team would be impeded due to the unfairness perceived. If the leader can allocate the tasks to individual members effectively by justifying and convincing the benefits of such decision, then it is likely that the interpersonal relationship between the team members would not be influenced. Moreover, the leader of my group tends to make decisions by exerting his power as a leader rather than persuading the team members of underlying reasons behind his decisions. This has directly initiated my argument with the leader and negatively affected the interpersonal relationship between the leader and me. If the leader can justify his decisions with supportive evidences, I will accept his decisions without any hesitation and there would be no interpersonal conflict and interpersonal aggression involved.
3.3 Emotional Intelligence
The emotional intelligence of the team members as well as the leader would be crucial to the development of interpersonal relationship within a team and it has important implications to the effective management of people in a wider organisational context. Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to monitor ones’ own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions (Evenson, 2007). Emotional Intelligence is comprised of emotional awareness, emotional management, motivation, empathy, and social skills (Muyia, 2008). Moreover, dealing with interpersonal relationship can be considered as an application of one’s emotional intelligence. In this sense, good interpersonal relationship can be developed with the help of high emotional intelligence. This implies that emotional intelligence can be a key determinant which would influence the development of interpersonal relationship. Within a team, a leader should be able to spot the emotional changes of the subordinates and respond accordingly in order to maintain good interpersonal relationship with them. For team members, they should also be able to manage their own emotions in the occasion when there is an interpersonal conflict. Within the wider organisational context, proper training can be provided to leaders as well as employees in order for them to develop and demonstrate a high level of emotional intelligence in the workplace. Through this way, the interpersonal relationship between people in the organisation can be improved which can make the management of people in the workplace more easily and effectively.
According to my experience during the group work, I failed to manage my emotions effectively which resulted in my meaningless argument with the team leader. Similarly, the team leader also failed to control his emotions which made the situation even worse. In this case, if any one of us possesses a high level of emotional intelligence and controls the emotions properly, then there would be no aggressive behaviours involved in the conflict or the conflict might even be avoided. This provides implications for people management that emotional intelligence should be a key attributes for leaders to develop in order to develop skills to manage interpersonal relationship within the team as well as within the organisational context effectively.
In conclusion, this reflective essay has specifically focused on the topic of interpersonal relationship and team effectiveness. Previous theories in terms of the topic have been evaluated. Two main interpersonal relationship issues including interpersonal conflict and interpersonal aggression have been identified and discussed. My own group work experiences have been used to provide examples to illustrate how poor interpersonal relationship could impede the team effectiveness. Finally, the implications of my analysis of interpersonal relationship issues to the effective management of people within organisations have been provided. More specifically, three key approaches, including team building, leadership, and emotional intelligence, which might contribute to the development of better interpersonal relationship and consequently contribute to the team effectiveness and effective management of people have been suggested and discussed.
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