Build Relationships and Win as a Team

Insights to conflict Resolution Techniques
Based on PMBOK 5.0



As we all know that project teams are not natural teams … they are a group of cross functional experts that come together as a team with the intention to resolve a common goal. Since people from different regions, cultures, nature, skills and expertise and so on… are working together, CONFLICTS are bound to arise. Although we often think ‘conflict’ is bad, it actually brings forward opportunities for improvement. Considering conflict on a healthier note as sometimes it really helps us access all the options available (specifically in a technical conflict), still one would not disagree if we say that that ‘SUCCESS of project managers in managing their project teams often depends a great deal on their ability to resolve conflicts’.

Let us first accept that – Conflict is inevitable. Sources of conflicts could be scarcity of resources or personal style of working. Different stakeholders might have different set of expectations from the project, which might make room for conflicts in the project. There might be some potential conflicts between the organizational strategy and the project goals. In this case, it becomes very important for the project manager to identify and then resolve these conflicts as early as possible. When you are in process of creating the schedule for your project, conflicts might arise in terms of the activities to be performed or may be with the resources assigned according to the resource calendar.
If managed in a constructive way, the differences in opinion might lead the project to creative and better decisions.  A project manager increases the chances of success of his project and achieves high performance by open and effective communication among his team, by managing and resolving conflicts in a constructive manner. The project manager and his team should collaborate to solve the problem and make decisions. Before proceeding to various conflict resolution techniques, let’s talk about several factors that influence the conflict resolution methods:

  • What is the relative importance of the conflict?
  • What is the intensity of the conflict?
  • Do you have any time pressure for resolving the conflict?
  • What is the power and position of persons involved in the conflict?
  • Are the respective parties motivated to resolve the conflict?

Though there are various ways and techniques for resolving conflicts, here we would be shedding some light on five conflict resolving techniques as per PMBOK 5.0.

  • Collaborate/Problem Solve
    This is the most effective and efficient way of resolving conflicts. Conflicting parties need to sit and discuss and find a solution by working together. Though this is quite time consuming compared to other conflict resolving techniques but this technique provides you the most long-lasting solution. Here the project manager needs to incorporate multiple viewpoints and insights from different perspectives. Everyone should be open to discussions. **win-win
  • Compromise/Reconcile
    Here solutions are searched which bring some level of satisfaction to all the parties. Each party gives up something and usually this only leads to a temporary solution or partially resolves the conflict. Something like – “Lets do a little bit of what both of you are suggesting” ** lose-lose
  • Smooth/Accommodate
    To resolve conflict when you emphasize on commonalities and de-emphasize on differences, we call this technique as smoothing or accommodating. This also is a temporary tactic as this actually does not resolve, only delays the conflict. ** lose-lose
  • Force/Direct
    When you use power and impose your decisions or push your viewpoint on other’s expense. This can cause additional conflicts and is usually used when there is a major time constraint or emergency. The following statement will make it more clear- “We have talked about the new modems enough now. I do not want to get those modems and that’s it!!”**win-lose
  • Withdraw/Avoid
    Retreating from an actual or a potential conflict arising situation. A project manager uses this technique when he wants to prepare better for the situation or wants this to be resolved by others. This is another temporary tactic, it doesn’t resolve only delays. When the project manager says ‘I can’t deal with this issue anymore’ **lose-lose

Many people think conflicts in a project arise from difference in personalities. But the real fact is that there are other factors which take the lead like schedules, project priorities, resource availability, technical opinions, budget and so on…. Before personality comes into picture. As a good project manager , one should facilitate open discussions and work on finding the root cause of the problem to resolve it.


As someone quoted “Good leaders are great at resolving conflicts. Great leaders keep conflicts arising at the first place” . All our readers must have come across an old saying “Prevention is better than cure”. Kindly note that many conflicts can be avoided if a project manager takes following actions-

  • One should inform the team of exactly where the project is headed, what are the project assumptions and constraints.
  • Keep the team always informed about key decisions as and when made.
  • Inform them of all approved changes.
  • Assignment of work should be clear and unambiguous.
  • Try to keep accountability and responsibility as non-overlapping.

Most conflict arising situations exist because of ambiguity. We rely more than enough on our memorizing power whereas on the contrary we should use more of written communication. The culprit behind all conflicts is majorly one – ambiguity, especially in conflicts involving strategic decisions. According to the website, there are three secrets to conflict resolution, all of them revolve around making your work more unambiguous.

STEP 1 – The first step is to remove ambiguity is to overcome our old habit of not writing. We should learn to write clearly and unambiguously. Finishing the activity as soon as possible is ambiguous. Finishing the activity till 5 pm on 10th December is ambiguous.

STEP 2 – The second step is to overcome the misconception that creating a paper trail is waste of time. A small summary after every discussion will only take a few minutes and in return it will provide you the benefits of running things smoothly.

STEP 3 – We should refrain from using ‘ambiguity’ as our tool for avoiding responsibility. Knowingly or unknowingly, we resist making clear and precise commitments because that keeps us in a safer zone if something goes wrong.”I’ll try” instead of “I’ll do” is such a kind of ambiguous commitment. If one expects accountability from others, one should himself offer the same.

At the end, here’s wishing you ALL THE BEST for your projects!!

About Sparsh Goyal

A passionate IT professional, Sparsh Goyal boasts of 4.3+ years of experience. He has worked for various projects under AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Spring Boot, Python, Microservices, RESTful, RESTFUL APIs/SOAP, Scripting, Shell and JAVA. He is also working towards gaining proficiency in Oracle Cloud PaaS, DevOps, SaaS and Docker/Kubernetes. His primary and secondary skills validate his relentless pursuits of expanding his horizon and developing more as an IT person. He boasts of the following certifications: *Google Professional Cloud Security Engineer. *AWS Cloud Solutions Architect Associate. *Oracle certified JAVA programmer.

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