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How to Resolve Conflict in your Project Team
People were put on this earth with different attitudes, personalities and views, this is what makes us individual.
Unfortunately, sometimes opinions can clash and this is where conflict can arise within a project team. If you’ve had a lot of experience in project environments, you know that they can be stressful and conflict can manifest at any point.
It’s not a case of will it happen, it’s more a case of when will it happen. Team members are an important asset on each project. If they’re feeling unhappy, this will contribute to their standard of work, increasing the risk of failure.
There are many different ways to effectively deal with conflict in a team, your actions on how you resolve this will have a positive or negative impact on the team. One thing you need to steer clear of is getting involved yourself, this will only add fuel to the fire. As a Project Manager, you will be in a great position to get to the bottom of the issue and try and set a plan out to work through it with all parties.
Although the word ‘conflict’ can be perceived as being a bad thing. It can actually be a good thing, especially throughout high-functioning teams. Conflict can bring issues up early, that otherwise would have been kept under the surface brewing. Ensure that you have regular meetings to not only discuss updates of a project but to also get some feedback from your team members.
In the likely case that conflict does happen on your project, be prepared and have some techniques already in mind to deal with it. We have put together some simple but effective ways for you to resolve issues in your project team.
Before jumping into a situation, you need to find out exactly what has gone on. Have separate conversations with both conflicting parties to understand their point of view and discuss how they feel it best to resolve the issue and would be happy to commit to. Once you have collected together your information, you can then analyse it. This will put you in a better place to analyse the situation and deal with it accordingly.
Find people’s strengths and weaknesses
At the start of the project, arrange a meeting that all team members MUST attend. This is your time to understand people’s strengths and weaknesses and align them to where you feel best on the project. If you go rushing in full steam ahead and give people responsibilities without thinking, it could end up in chaos down the line. Think about it, if you put someone on a task that they are known for not being very good at, this will only cause annoyance with other team members. Something that could so easily be avoided from the outset.
Hold regular meetings
Make sure you stick to regularly weekly meetings and be very strict about all team members attending. Send out an agenda prior to the meeting to give people the time to review it and request anything they would like to add. This will give people the chance to prepare for the meeting and give them the opportunity to voice their own opinion.
Spot it early
Don’t let the problem fester and hope that it will all blow over, it won’t. It will just get gradually worse until eventually it erupts, escalating the original issue even further. Keep a close eye on body language and people’s attitudes towards each other. For example, if someone is making facial expressions at someone else as they talk or looking around at other people or writing notes. This could be the first signs of conflict. The worst thing people can do is ignore it and think nothing of it. Nip it in the bud early, as it could end up causing damage to your project.
Check your company policy
Approaching a situation of conflict can be difficult and in most cases awkward. In some organisations, especially those with a PMO (Project Management Office) in place, you will usually find they have a policy to deal with conflict. It’s always best to refer to these so you don’t do anything wrong and you always have the back up of the policy too.
Encourage them to talk to each other
If you have experienced conflict with another person you will know yourself how uncomfortable and awkward it can be to build up the courage to speak to that person. The right way to approach it is to encourage team members to speak to each other but if they’re not ready to or feel too uncomfortable, don’t force it.
If the involved parties are happy to, set up a face-to face meeting where you can act as the mediator. Let them each take it in turn to say how they are feeling. Ask them the question of how do you think this can be resolved and draw up some actions for both. Reviewing them over the course of the next few weeks. They will appreciate you for this and be thankful if it solves their problems.
Like in any relationship, work, personal or friendship. Compromise is a key part to holding it together. If someone just got what they wanted all the time, that’s not going to make anyone happy. While it may seem to resolve the issue in the short-term, it could have some damaging effects in the long-term. In order for compromise to work, both parties have to be happy with the proposed offerings and feel like they ‘win’ something out of the situation.
If the worse comes to worse, I guess that leaves only one option. A sword fight.*
*Disclaimer – we do not actively encourage sword fights or any type of violence to resolve issues.