Eppich, W. J., & Schmutz, J. B. (2019). From ‘them’ to ‘us’: Bridging group boundaries through team inclusiveness. Medical Education, 53(8), 756-758. doi: 10.1111/medu.13918
Background & Theory
This article discusses how to create a team mentality and bridge the gaps that might exist between different groups and identities. In other words, how to create unified teams even when there may be conflict related to various group boundaries.
Eppich and Schmutz, in “From ‘them’ to ‘us’: Bridging group boundaries through team inclusiveness” (2019), address the following question:
- How might a team be unified despite group diversity, hierarchy, and conflict?
The authors discuss research from this same journal issue, as well as additional applicable research. They provide an overview of topics such as social identity theory, intergroup conflict, types of conflict (specifically, task, process, and relationship conflict), and strategies to create a team amongst multiple groups (perspective taking, inclusive leadership and language, team reflection, and increased intergroup contact).
The results show that while some kinds of conflict, such as task conflict, can be resolved positively, conflict that is related to relationships or processes often doesn’t fully resolve or leaves lingering negative effects. Intergroup conflict overall is common, especially in large organizations (for this article, most commonly referenced is the medical field). To help create unity and minimize/resolve conflict, the authors suggest employing the strategies noted above: perspective taking, inclusive leadership and language, team reflection, and increased intergroup contact. All four strategies have a unique influence, but also feed off of each other and help create a well-rounded, diverse-but-unified team.
What This Means
- It is absolutely possible to create a positive organizational environment and unified team, despite a large organization/team, diversity, and various groups. However, it does require active participation and willingness of the leadership and team members for this to occur. One must be willing to take on new perspectives, use inclusive language, participate in team reflection, and look for possible interactions with intergroup members.
- A key factor to implementing these strategies above is also finding the ways to encourage team members to look outside of themselves and participate in these ways.
- Conflict can help be averted or more easily resolved when teams are more unified.
For consultants: Strategize ways to train organizational leadership to incorporate these critical team building activities and perspectives as part of the core values of their organization.
For everyone: Try to be open to new perspectives and working with others, even if different from yourself. It can be hard to shift our own mentality and bias, but is critical if we want to grow and have improved relationships with those around us.