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10 Methods of Resolving Conflict with Project Team Members

written by: Regina Woodard • edited by: Ginny Edwards • updated: 11/14/2013

There is bound to be some amount of conflict in any project. In fact, it is actually a bad sign if there is none because that means someone on your team is afraid of voicing their opinion or differing from the pack. Learn 10 methods of resolving conflict and using it to improve your project.

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    10 Methods of Resolving Conflit in your Project Team It is inevitable that there will be some amount of conflict on a team with a variety of industry experts and leaders. Some amount of conflict can be healthy, as long as it is discussed and a conclusion is reached. Clashing personalities or opposing viewpoints can actually bring new thoughts and discussions on aspects of a project that had not been imagined before.

    The type of conflict you have to worry about more is unspoken resentment that can erupt in an outburst, or even more deadly, in quiet mutiny or deviation from agreed upon roles, tasks and goals.

    The goal of the project manager should be to get your team to a place where they can openly discuss differing views without it resulting it a shouting match or hurt feelings. Use the following ten methods to create harmony in your team and your project.

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    1. Be Aware That Conflict Occurs

    Knowing that conflict may and will occur is the first step to resolving it, especially if you know that certain team members may disagree with each other. By recognizing that there will be conflict, a project manager knows what to expect.

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    2. Set the Ground Rules

    At the beginning of your project set some ground rules in your first meeting. Be sure to address what process will be taken to address conflicts, as they are bound to rise and will need to be taken care of before they spiral out of control. Tell team members that everyone's ideas are valid and that they shouldn't be dismissed, even if you do not agree with them.
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    3. Learn About Destructive Conflicts

    Conflict becomes destructive when no resolution is in sight or the issue cannot be resolved. A psychological model for explaining destructive patterns is the persecutor-victim-rescuer triangle. The persecutor would be the bad-guy or bully in this scenerio, but the rescuer is also placing him or herself in a position of superiority over the supposed victim. Stop yourself if you see yourself slipping into any of these roles and also try to recognize it in your team.

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    4. Stop Conflict When it Happens

    Conflict should be addressed immediately before it can grow. If a discussion grows heated during a meeting, do not wait until the next meeting to address the issue. Instead, discuss the issue while in the meeting; even if members disagree, they are still able to see each other's points of view.

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    5. Get the Whole Story

    Be sure you understand the perspectives of every person involved. Conflicts arise when there are differences of opinion, but also due to miscommunication or misunderstanding. As the project manager, you should get all the information you can in regards to the conflict so that you can resolve it efficiently and effectively.

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    6. Meet for Resolutions

    If the conflict can't be resolved during the initial meeting, set up a separate meeting with those that are having the conflicts, so that a resolution can be reached without getting the other team members involved and picking sides.

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    7. Discuss Both Sides of a Perspective

    Even if you are inclined to agree with one side of the conflict, do not make a final judgment until each person has had their say. Ending a discussion without hearing each person out can escalate the problem. Explain the pros and cons of both ideas, so that both people can consider the opposing view.

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    8. Make Compromise a Goal

    Compromising between parties is helpful, as it can allow for both conflicting parties the ability to use their ideas. Most times, points can be combined in order to make a better idea or solution.

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    9. Avoid Falling into Groupthink

    Groupthink is when a group suppresses the opposing views of members in order to create harmony. While it is always good to maintain harmony within a group while working on a project, this idea of keeping opposing viewpoints at bay because they will disrupt the norm will end up doing more harm than good. To avoid this, make sure that there is one or two members that bring up constructive criticism to ideas.

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    10. Don't Try to Change a Team Member

    This final tip might be the most important. Just as in any type of relationship, do not try to change a member of your team. They are an individual person with unique ideas and forms of expression. Trying to change their feelings or viewpoints will only lead to resentment. You can propose to them alternatives, or list benefits of other ideas, but in the end you may just have to accept that they will desagree with an outcome.

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    Sometimes conflict can be productive by bringing ideas up from different people; sometimes it can be detrimental to the overall productivity of the group and its members. Remember to allow people to express their ideas, even if they differ.

References

  • Transcending the Victim-Rescuer-Persecuter-Triangle - http://holisticworld.co.uk/your_say.php?article_id=77
  • "Resolving Conflict in Work Teams - The Team Building Directory." The Team Building Directory - Advice about team building activities, companies and more. http://www.innovativeteambuilding.co.uk/pages/articles/conflicts.htm