Articles - Resolving conflicts
By Manjeet Singh (based on excerpts from the free ProjectMind's quick guide to project management)
Conflicts are inevitable when people (especially from different backgrounds) work together on a project. Conflicts in projects typically fall into the following categories:
- Conflict over different objectives and expectations.
- Unclear roles and uncertainty about who has the decision-making authority.
- Interpersonal conflicts between people.
Here is a method known as the “win-win” approach to conflict resolution:
- Before you start resolving a conflict, analyze it by asking questions from the conflicting parties.
- Once you have sufficient information about the conflict, actively seek common ground in order to emphasize the agreement side of things – this starts the conflict resolution process on a positive note.
- Now ask the conflicting parties to brainstorm possible solutions to the issues at hand.
- Once you have identified resolutions, agree upon guidelines on how to implement these resolutions.
- Document and then implement the resolutions.
The “win-win” conflict resolution method is generally accepted as being as being a fair one as it allows the conflicting parties to be heard and involves them in working together to find a solution to the conflict. However, the “win-win” method does not always work. In this case, you should agree with the conflicting parties that the conflict is unresolved. You can now adopt one of the following approaches:
- If the conflict is of a technical nature, bring in a technical expert whose opinion the conflicting parties value, and ask him or her to help resolve the conflict.
- If the conflict is not of a technical nature, involve the project sponsor or a senior manager to help you out. This method however, should only be used when all other methods have failed – people do not like being forced by supervisors to do something they do not feel comfortable with.
Also, note that if properly managed, certain conflicts can be actually good for your team as they may generate new, more effective ways of accomplishing activities. Careful however, when dealing with a multicultural team as conflicts are not perceived the same way in Germany, France, the UK, the US, India or China. Whenever conflicts arise, always keep the goal of your project in mind and try to resolve them as quickly as possible.
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