Conflict is a part of life, whether we like it not. And often the place where conflict occurs the most is in the workplace. The pressure of being part of a team and racing to meet standards and deadlines builds a tension that causes endless fights and arguments.
At the highest level this can lead to never-ending court cases, at the lowest level this can stop a project dead in its tracks if the conflict isn't resolved; either way conflict causes companies to lose tons of money, which is why a good project manager can be invaluable to an organization.
Confronting is an excellent method project managers can use early on in a project to get ahead of any future conflicts. Also known as integrating, confronting involves the opposing parties meeting face-to-face and co-operating to reach an agreement that satisfies the concerns of both sides.
For example, if two of your team members have different expectations regarding a part of the project's execution, the best thing you can do is to arrange a meeting where you mediate and help them reach a consensus that works for both parties of the conflict.
Confronting is a tried and tested method, but this style of approach needs you as the project manager to be open and direct communication swiftly which should lead the way to solve the problem. You need to be clear that learning is the primary goal and you should aim to build trust as well as building a common power base.
Compromising can be quite a tough method to execute correctly but with the right mindset you can make everyone happy while saving time and money.
Commonly known as the give and take style, compromising is essentially getting both conflicting parties to give something up to reach a decision that benefits the team as a whole while leaving both sides with some degree of satisfaction.
For example, if you are running out of time and are in a deadlock, have a talk with the two parties in conflict separately. Show them your understanding, but be firm in telling them what they'll need to give up for the team to grow. That's how you demonstrate that a compromise is the best way forward.
You should do so with the aim of maintaining the relationship among the involved parties. Find a balance between being strict and understanding, but most importantly find a balance between the two warring parties while developing your team and keeping everyone happy.
When using the accommodating approach, the measures of an agreement are highlighted, and the areas of contention are downplayed. Not all conflicts will be resolved using this method. A party may sacrifice its own concerns or goals to satisfy the interests or goals of the other party, so it's best to use it when the stakes are low, and liability is limited.
For example, if you are at a stage where you want to create some good will among your team members and give them an example to follow, the accommodating approach will work for you.
Also, you will be able to create an obligation for a trade-off at a later time, which works in your favour.
Forcing can be one of the hardest methods to use and is often used when you have no choice, so, it's understandable why projects managers will only use it in a "do or die" situation. As a project manager, this method needs you to be confident, dominating and forceful.
Sometimes it's the only way to stifle a conflict while it's still manageable. If a team member's behaviour threatens the integrity of the entire group, you need to enforce certain rules to ensure that the collaboration among your team members is saved.
One party will win a conflict at the expense of the other party so you should be prepared to do this only when the stakes are quite high and principles are at stake.
Avoiding, or withdrawing, as it's also known is a method that should be used early on in the project, especially if you want to maintain a certain level of neutrality. It simply means that you postpone the conflict for later or remove yourself from it completely. And while it may sound easy this is one of the most delicate approaches.
Adopt this solution if you're dealing with many pressing matters at the same time and fear that you won't be able to devote your attention properly to the conflict.
Make sure that you use this method only when you are sure the problem will go away and want to gain time. Remember that this is essentially a temporary solution and it shouldn't be a reoccurring method.
As a project manager mediating can cause a diverse array of headaches that can make your job hell. However, as you have seen in the tips above, using the right methods at the right time will keep conflicts to a minimum, allow you to reach goals on time, and most importantly enjoy your job.
Bio: James Pointon is an experienced sales team leader at OpenAgent. In his job, he is often required to navigate through difficult aspects of managing projects and enjoys sharing his tips and techniques with other professionals online.