Conflict is inevitable in a project environment. There’s always competition for resources, incongruent requirements, break-downs in communications and many other factors that could become a source of conflict.
On a project conflict can lead to dysfunctional outcomes. However, if you actively manage conflict, it can actually help the team arrive at a better solution.
The Infographic below provides a good summary of many possible causes of conflict on projects.
To manage conflict in a project environment, involves building trust for all parties to be open and honest and to engage in seeking a positive resolution to the situation creating the conflict. A Project Manager needs to strive to establish a collaborative approach among team members involved in order to fully resolve the problems.
If a collaborative approach is not possible, you need to use other management styles for handling the conflict, like assertiveness, accommodation, avoidance or compromise. Conflict is one of the biggest challenges a Project Manager faces on projects. You need to draw upon all your interpersonal skills to lead the team to a successful resolution.
A few things I have learned over the years are the importance of staying calm, to keep confident and allow parties to vent their frustration, but also ask them to come forward with possible solutions. It’s best not to be defensive, or apologising, or getting worked up in a situation of conflict. You need to develop a thick skin and try not to take things personally.
Also, don’t escalate people every time you have conflict, that’s also deferring the problem. Only escalate if you have tried to collaboratively solve the conflict and there’s still a break-down in communications or trust. Then you’ll find that senior management is very supportive in giving assistance to resolve the conflict.