Conflicts are an integral part of our day-to-day lives and the corporate space is no exception. Every organization faces conflicts of some kind regularly, especially while managing projects. Most of the times, internal teams can be seen running to chase updates, leading to internal conflicts. Besides the ability to use basic project management software and project management techniques, every project manager should be deft in managing the internal conflicts to promote better collaboration and a healthy work environment.
It is the conflict management skills of the project managers that make them a true leader and should be a mandatory part of their training.
As we know that prevention is better than cure, the ideal way to manage internal conflicts is to avert the situations that cause them in the first place.
What causes conflicts?
There are a lot of factors that end up in conflicts within the project team. Let’s have a look at some of the common culprits that cause such divergences.
Try to prevent these situations from coming up in order to curb conflicts.
Unmatched stakeholder interests
If the interests of all the stakeholders are not aligned, the project is doomed from the beginning. It is necessary to have the project sponsor, project team, project head, top management and all internal departments to be on the same page before the project gets into full swing.
Inapt Management style
Strong leadership qualities, solid integrity, and clear vision are vital for any project head. But every individual has their own style of managing their team, and if it is not in-sync with the expectations of team members, conflicts are bound to happen.
Projects require high level of team collaboration and in case the members are in no mood to work together or assist each other, it becomes a recipe for disaster.
Frequent changes in project
The scope, schedule, and timeline of deliverables should be mutually agreed upon before the project begins. But , experience dictates that changes occur frequently, resulting in conflicts.
Lack of resources
Time is the ultimate resource and tight deadlines lead to frustration among the team members. Also, overburdening few people with a lot of work is not the ideal way to go.
Lack of communication
With many stakeholders and participants, clear communication is of utmost importance, yet often compromised. A good task management software can help with it if used properly as it helps in reducing miscommunications.
Techniques for Managing Internal Conflicts
Although there would be conflicts in the project no matter what, you can design an effective strategy to resolve them. The PMBOK guide suggests the use of following techniques to resolve the internal conflicts in project management environment.
This method can be considered as a win-win situation for all stakeholders. It is also known as collaborating, problem solving or integrating procedure for conflict resolution.
This technique focuses on exploring the root-cause of the conflict and considers the perspectives of every stakeholder to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution. The main benefit of using the confronting method is that it builds trust and team spirit in the members as they are required to collaborate on their problems and understand each other’s point-of-view.
But this technique requires a lot of time, effort and strong inter-personal skills of the manager, which makes it suitable in only sparse cases.
The next best thing to the confronting technique is the compromising technique in case a mutual agreement is desired. In this method, the conflicting parties arrive at a common solution, but after giving up something that each of them wanted as part of the solution.
Hence, it is sometimes called “lose-lose” or “give and take” technique also. This technique is ideal for cases when time is insufficient but a mutually agreed solution is necessary to maintain the relationship between the conflicting parties.
When conflicts rise to a high intensity and a quick resolution needs to be done to get out of the “do-or-die” situation, this is the technique to consider. It is also called a forcing or dominating technique because one of the parties (usually the project manager) has to impose their decision on the other parties while completely ignoring their needs.
Therefore, it creates a win-lose situation and should be avoided unless the stakes are high, core principles are under attack and relationships are unimportant. If you have to use this method, ensure that you conduct a team meeting afterwards to discuss your decision with the team members and boost their morale.
Quite opposite to the confronting style of conflict resolution, the smoothing or accommodating technique involves completely giving in to the other party’s needs in order to appease them. This can be used in situations where you are working together with someone in their core domain and you are not an expert in it.
For example, if a software developer is collaborating with a hardware engineer on manufacturing something, the former may oblige to the latter’s decisions. Although, too much appeasing would lead to a decreased confidence and you might be dominated regularly. Striking a balance is the key here.
While some experts argue that this is not exactly a conflict resolution technique, others consider it a legitimate and useful one in several situations. Withdrawal technique simply tells you to ignore the problem and behave as if there is no conflict present.
It can be used when the conflict is too trivial, the project is almost at the finish line and can be handled afterwards also. Another use is when the argument becomes heated and dealing with the conflict when things become calm can lead to a better solution. Although, useful in a few cases, this technique is generally avoided.
Conflicts are an inevitable part of managing any project. It’s best to avoid or defuse situations that may lead to an internal conflict among the stakeholders, but is not practically possible in most cases. Conflict management skills are what separate an average project manager from an excellent project manager.
Which of the above mentioned techniques do you prefer while managing your projects?
Author Bio: David is a technical writer, his works are regularly published in various papers and top-notch portals. His rich experience in project management domain helps him offer latest and fresh perspective on improved efficiency in work flows across organisations.