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Managing Conflict

Welcome to the Help Desk for North Carolina adult protection multidisciplinary teams (MDTs). The purpose of the Help Desk is to create a space where all members of the adult protection community can access information and direct questions related to establishing and maintaining strong MDTs. We know that across the state MDTs are in various stages of development. Some counties have fully functioning MDTs. Some counties want to re-invigorate their efforts and some counties haven’t gotten off the ground yet with your team. The Help Desk is here for all of you – every community, and everyone who participates in the MDT.

We want you to contact us when you are facing challenges. You may want ideas about how to strengthen your team. Or perhaps you need coaching on taking your first steps in forming an MDT. Some of you may need help managing dynamics among your team members or maybe you need to access specific legal expertise in managing a current case. The Help Desk is here to support you in all of these situations. Simply reach out via email or phone to connect with us.

Below you will find a compilation of frequently asked questions we’ve received at the Help Desk, organized by subject matter.

Posted on
Tuesday, January 12, 2021 - 8:46 am
Authored by


Inviting complementary perspectives into your MDT is a necessary practice. No one (or two) of you can strengthen your systems of identification, intervention, and response by yourselves.

A natural by-product of involving these varied perspectives is that different ideas will emerge about the best way forward. Try to resist labeling this dynamic as a problem, and reframe it as a gift, even if a potentially challenging one. Surfacing these different ideas and mining them for the informed advice contained within is necessary for the success of your MDT.

We will refer to this facilitative skill set as “conflict resolution” in the acknowledgement that unresolved differences of opinion can escalate and hamper the team’s effectiveness. Unresolved conflict can hinder cooperation and team effectiveness. What this skill set is, really, is a superpower for managing group dynamics.

  1. Inquire. When approaching conflict, it is important to find the sources of the different perspectives. Ask “why?” - perhaps more than once - to identify the underlying reasons for the opinion any MDT member holds. Separate the positions (We have to implement Plan X for this case.) from the underlying interests (My office doesn’t have the resources to implement Plan Y well, even if that is a preferable strategy.)
  2. Assess Systemic Impact. Consider how those reasons apply to the whole system and whether they track back to an optional personal preference, rather than to policy, resources, or external influences. Employ your inner detective and your best active listening skills to fully open the dialogue and explore the ripple effects of any limitations, options, or decisions.
  3. Refer to Your Mission Statement. A complex situation can tempt a group to take off on compelling tangents. Reference your mission statement to refocus your team perspective and reset your objectivity.
  4. Negotiate. Invite team members to identify the elements of solutions that would provide the most benefit for everyone. It is possible to design solutions that support and maintain the team’s purpose and result in a “win-win.” Solutions should be a team effort and not based on one viewpoint.
  5. Reframe. Working through conflict is an opportunity for growth as you deepen your operation as a multi-disciplinary team. Take a moment to consider what tools or practices helped your team work through the challenge.
    1. Did you systematically ask for each person’s perspective?
    2. Did you employ some kind of posting or mapping exercise?
    3. Did you share critical information ahead of time to give the team time to prepare?
    4. Did someone take on the role of facilitator?

Whatever you did well this time, remember to do it again next time.

Margaret Henderson and Rebekah Appleton relied on resources contained within the following to co-author this post:

Forming a Multidisciplinary Team To Investigate Child Abuse from the US Department of Justice.