Conflicts in families, classrooms and on project teams are a fact of life, it’s human nature to have conflicts. Conflict is not always necessarily a bad thing, it has the potential of bringing out the best from individuals and finding better solutions. However, when conflict prevents a team from coming together and begins to damage the team it becomes a cause for concern.
To effectively manage conflict, one has to acknowledge the occurrence, and then identify the root cause and find an amicable solution. It is crucial to understand the nature of conflict in order to adequately find a resolution. And it’s also important to remember that “Good Leaders Need To Be Good Teachers”.
Conflicting Goals: Although teams might be working on the same project, they may have different alternative goals such as making an impression, taking control, or avoiding responsibility. Team members who have conflicting goals may produce duplicate work, push off work, make independent decisions or emit aggression. Conflicting goals may be due to ulterior motives, or (more commonly) to miscommunication.
In these circumstances, the project manager must clearly define the team goal, individual boundaries and reassert authority. It can also be helpful to organize teams or partnerships for key decision making and establish ground rules including communication methods that include all team members equally.
Conflicting personalities may be one of the hardest conflicts to resolve as a manager. When there are two members of a team that simply do not get along, it can be impossible to work between them. Conflicting personalities are fairly easy to identify. It may appear in the form of aggression or exclusion towards a particular individual, lack of personal interaction or disrespect between team members. When the dislike between members affects the project, it is the responsibility of the project manager to step in.
The project manager needs address the problem with the individuals involved and inform them that their disagreements have not gone unnoticed and the conflict is unacceptable. The key to overcoming personality conflict is to establish a mutual trust. To increase mutual trust, a project manager can reorganize the project to have opposing members working together, or decreasing proximity, so the group is constantly working in the same space.
Sometimes a team simply can’t agree. Like herding cats, it can seem impossible to come an agreement. So long as disagreements remain professional and respectful of persons, they can be a great way to find a common solution. As a project manager, it is your responsibility to guide the discussion in a way that can eventually achieve a common agreement.
It is important to remind your team that consensus doesn’t mean everyone gets exactly what they want, but rather that everyone can accept and support the decision. Before a decision is made, develop ground rules and criteria that everyone can agree upon, this makes individual decisions easier. During a debate, focus on the areas you agree on, rather than those you disagree on, consider a voting method, where each member is given a certain number of votes. If disagreements become heated or emotional, table the conversation and address those issues individually before reconvening the team.
The role of a project manager is to lead your team through conflict resolution. The best way to lead is by allowing the parties involved in the conflict to develop the solution. Keep in mind that some conflict will not be resolved. There may be instances of personal issues, past history or ethical differences, if the conflict cannot be resolved, it must be managed so each member can work together professionally for the good of the team and the project. In this case, it is the responsibility of the project manager to simply maintain respect, civility and cooperation amongst all team members, regardless of personal differences. A good complement to this would be looking into a Leadership and Personalities PDU Course from PMCAMPUS. This course can show you how to embrace conflict within your team and help turn something negative to the positive.