Managing Conflict as a Project Manager

Conflict within most project teams is inevitable and effectively managing conflict is arguably the hardest thing a project manager has to do. How the project manager manages and resolves this conflict will make the difference between creating a better team or creating a bigger chasm within the team dynamics. As annoying and time-consuming managing conflict is, it is an important part of being a Project Manager.

Don’t waste energy worrying about it just accept it comes with the territory.

Looking back now over my own career I can recall conflicts with many people I managed over just about everything: other team members, being managed too much, not being managed enough, projects that were too tough, projects that were too boring. I never liked conflict but I realised early on that it came with the job and trying my best to deal with conflict fairly and directly was a crucial part of the role.

Here’s what I have learned

  • Understand that conflicts can be constructive but you cannot let them develop into something personal.
  • Stay calm – ss a Scouser I have been constantly reminded that we are an excitable race and “calm down” has become somewhat of a recognised war cry but in business even when provoked, keep a close hold on your temper; stay as calm as you possibly can. Staying calm and balanced will prove to be a challenge, especially if there are strong personalities involved.
  • Act Quickly – don’t be a conflict avoider as the longer the conflict stews, the uglier it gets and the mole hills quickly become mountains to deal with.
  • Identify things the conflicting parties agree with so there can be some common ground. It will give something to build on.
  • Keep the team focused on the ‘what’, not the ‘who’, it will keep personal biases quiet.
  • Go for the ‘win-win’– base your decision on a balanced review of the facts having listened to the differing opinions so no one feels completely undermined but recognises that their view was considered. Get closure and move ahead… the sooner, the better.
  • That being said, make the difficult call if you need to – you’re the project manager; if one party is being completely unrealistic and disruptive, the responsibility of the success of the project rests on you.

I don’t want to give the illusion that conflict resolution is easy because it isn’t. It never is. However, if you can develop a consistent and rational approach to managing conflict. It can make your difficult job much less stressful than it would be without it.

 

 

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