Conflicts are part of our life, often people misinterpret conflict with an open fight resulting in long lasting effect on the relationship of both the parties. This is a wrong concept, conflict is a difference of opinion or disagreement on certain idea or plan proposed in front of two or more people. In other words conflict, is due to difference in priorities and/or goals between two teams or individuals.
Main disadvantages of conflicts in the workplace are competitive tensions, ego clashes, politics, bias nature, jealousy, performance discrepancies, and other. The primary reasons of conflicts are schedule and resources, followed by budget and communication issues. If a project manager is handling a mid-size or big team, it is his responsibility to resolve all the internal conflicts, so that the project do not suffer.
Some tips to handle conflicts at the workplace
- Don’t avoid conflict, hoping that issue would be resolved on its own with time. An unresolved conflict can proved to be a cause of even bigger conflicts.
- Meet one-on-one which each member to understand their side of the story and then call for a combined meeting.
- Do not believe on anyone without evidence to support, also if majority is saying something, then also ask for the evidence. Every workplace is full of both kind of people honest and dishonest. Some people speak lie so smartly that no one can make out that they are actually manipulating things in their favor.
- You can find all kinds of people from big liars to very honest, from drama queens/kings with major performance issue to key performers who takes no interest in office politics. And then there are others who believe in blame shifting, and half-truths to get away with the situation. Every project manager must learn an art to separate the genuine resource from a manipulative one.
- Don’t play favoritism, be fair in all your decisions.
- In case a project manager fails to deal with the internal conflict, it would result in loss of productivity and/or loss of good resources, so it recommended to think from all perspectives.
As per PMBOK 5.0, there are 5 conflict resolution techniques
- Compromise/Reconcile: Neither side wins or loses in this situation. Compromise is achieved when each party gives up something.
- Forcing/Directing: One person forces a solution on the other parties, this technique is least recommended technique. This is an example of win-lose situation as only the person who is directing wins and others loses.
- Collaborating/Problem Solving: In this technique various viewpoints from different people are taken, discussed and shared with the team members. The decision is taken by the consensus of the team members.
- Withdrawal/Avoidance: The conflict is avoided due to higher priorities in the project. In this case project manager thinks that the issue would get resolve automatically with time. It never results in a solution, is an example of a lose- lose conflict resolution technique
- Smoothing/Accommodating: Does not lead to permanent solution.
There is one more technique which was there in PMBOK 4.0 but is not there in PMBOK 5.0
- Confrontation/problem solving: This technique is on the approach that at least one right solution to a problem exists. So a permanent solution to the problem must be found to resolve the conflict. This is an example of win-win conflict resolution technique.
While conflicts are inevitable and not necessarily bad, the challenge of conflict lies in how one chooses to handle it. Compromise, avoidance and force should not be the first choice for good managers. A good leader should first try to solve the problem, if the conflict is very small like his two members had an argument on the wrong communication send, related to delivery date of a work package, the manager should ask them to resolve it themselves. If it is related to the schedule of a common resource, then the manager should intervene and resolve in favor of the project. The project manager must take care of all the factors before choosing the most appropriate conflict resolution technique.
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