This is a guest post by Daniel Raymond, marketing manager at Project-Management.com.
Team conflicts on projects are a part of life. In essence, you are bringing together people with different personalities, mindsets, and specialization and are asking them to work as one. It is very rare for projects to go smoothly. Even in simple, straightforward projects, conflict between people can rear its ugly head. The most common reasons for this include personality clashes, misunderstandings, disagreements about the work, and egos.
If you’re the project manager, your responsibility is to mediate between the parties involved. Take note that there are instances where conflicts cannot be resolved no matter what you do. The resentment between two people is just too deep. Don’t side with anyone. Your responsibility is to ensure that they can still work together as far as possible or to make alternative plans if they can’t.
Here are some guidelines on how you can resolve team conflicts.
1. Exercise an authoritarian approachThis must be done if there is intense pressure to finish within the deadline or if the due date is approaching. Just tell the group what the resolution should be. Emergency situations require unpopular decisions. The authoritarian approach is particularly effective if the project is nearing completion.
2. AvoidanceThere are some cases where project managers avoid confrontation. They ignore team conflicts as if they don’t exist. If the issues between team members aren’t serious and if they can still work professionally, it may not require the attention of the project manager. It is still best for the manager to get involved though, if only to provide a better work environment for the team.
3. Sacrificing self-concernsThis entails yielding to another person, it may be quite difficult because of egos. Nevertheless, the approach can be effective when one person has a significant vested interest in the outcome because in those cases they are more willing to make concessions. When one person is clearly wrong, it may be a good idea to help him or her see the error using examples or proof.
4. CollaboratingCompromises and accommodation (sacrificing self-concerns) involve one or both parties giving in. In collaboration, there is an attempt to find a mutually satisfying outcome. This requires the effort of the team manager as well. It is important to sit down with the people who are in conflict and mediate the discussion to reach a collaborative conclusion.
5. Exchanging concessionsTaking the middle ground can be effective if a quick solution is required for a complex issue. This approach takes the opinions of different people into consideration quickly. The mediation should end by outlining the source of the conflict, gaining commitments from all parties, and setting up a follow-up session.
So, these are the top 5 ways to manage team conflicts in any project team. Look at the individual situation in your team and adopt the strategy that looks to you as if it will be the most likely to help resolve it.
It is important to keep in mind that when conflict starts, it is usually over a minor issue such as personality mismatch. But when dealing with the problem is postponed, you run the risk of there being a lot of annoyances that occurred in the meantime. Dealing with it early prevents personality clashes from becoming bigger issues.
Photo credit: Ed Yourdon on Flickr