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Conflict Management

  • PMP®
  • Project Human Resource Management
Created on :
April 14, 2015
Updated on :
October 27, 2022
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Conflict is a situation which arises when a person or a team is not in agreement with other person or team. In other words, conflict is due to differences in opinion between teams or individuals, and if not resolved in time with the information backed with their common goal, may result in unwanted/unpleasant storm of ego and personality clashes at workplace.

Are conflicts beneficial? Yes at times, they are.

Conflicts are unavoidable but can be minimized by following ways but not limited to:

  • Communicating role and responsibilities to all the team members.
  • System should be designed in a way that is sufficient enough to keep the team and other relevant stakeholders informed about priorities and current situation transparently.

People work together as per assigned priorities, but the lack of communication between them related to continuous changes or facts in environment forms the basis of conflict. For example- if a team member is redeployed to another work as a response to an occurred risk, and if it is not communicated properly, it may result in risk.

What information can prevent conflict, can be visualized as following:

WHEN Primary reason of conflict is “when (time)”, when are we getting this deliverable?
WHAT After time comes “what (priority)”, which task is most important?
WHO The third possible dimension of conflict would be “who”, who will work on this area?
Few team leaders would be asking for same resource as they believe that this particular resource is most capable.
HOW Then comes “how (options)” what kind of design or methodology should we use?
LIKE Lastly “like”, a person do not like another person. Personality should be the least important reason for conflict.

Now come to the resolution part – who is responsible to resolve the conflict?

The first responsibility lies with the people involved in the conflicting situation. In case the conflict is not resolved within a tolerance limit or it has started affecting the project’s objectives or the common goal, then as a project manager, you are responsible to take steps. You can set up a structure by taking into consideration project management plan and understanding the current team building stage.

As per the  PMBOK® Guide Sixth Edition there are 5 conflict resolution techniques:

PROBLEM SOLVING or COLLABORATE (Win-win) –This method is preferred when team members are comfortable with each other, they trust each other and working together for the common goal. Here the Project Manager’s intervention is required to only remind the team what is needed to bring things on track.

COMPROMISE(Lose-Lose) –When relationship between the parties is really important, stakes or differences are not very high and time is less, this method of resolution is preferred. Both the parties are losing something for their common goal in order to work their relationship.

In “Compromising” a middle path is chosen as a resolution.

FORCE(Win-Lose) – In “forcing” technique, solution is forced to the people who are involved in conflict. This method is good when relationship is less important compared to very high stakes or differences. An authorized person may enforce the resolution in such situations.In case time is less to go into details, this technique may be used. Later on, it is recommended that you communicate why the resolution is taken.

Sometimes forcing is also used to ensure compliance of rules.

SMOOTH or ACCOMMODATE – Smoothing works well when people believe in working with each other differences between them are not much severe and few points exist among them, which are in agreement. Here focus on those agreements is used to resolve the conflict. However, it does not develop permanent solution always.

WITHDRAW or DO NOTHING – Method is used when you give up on the situation, due to high level of storm within the people who are in a conflicting situation. Sometimes you need time to bring the condition in control and/or to take preliminary steps before you come up with a viable solution.

Until you get a viable solution, you may choose to “Do Nothing”.

In PMPProject Management Professional (PMP)® exam we get few questions on conflict resolution techniques, but in general we should focus on bringing a solution on a table by getting into the root cause of the problem. Each technique is applicable depending on the situation and chemistry within the team, but if you do not get any clue and you are asked to pick one resolution technique, collaborate or problem solving could be the preferred technique. Happy reading and do post follow up questions here on our DISCUSSION FORUM

See the video for better understanding of this topic

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