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Resolving Conflict for Project Managers

Upon embarking on a brand new project with a brand new group of people, one of the only inevitabilities for project managers is the arrival of conflict between team members that they will need to resolve along the way. This may be conflict between them and a member of their team or two team members, and can be sparked by a lot of different circumstances and stressors, but it’s important for project managers to know how to quickly and effectively resolve such incidents without allowing the project itself to be negatively affected.

When any group of people are put together to achieve a single goal, it is always difficult to balance ideas and abilities in a way that will achieve the best results, and this is one of the areas where the controlling voice of the project manager is needed most. He or she must know and understand where everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are, listening to ideas from everyone while aligning them with each other and their own. Projects need this central point of reason to avoid chaos and eventually, failure, and so many common causes of conflict in project teams can be avoided from the outset.

That said, conflict can arise from anywhere, from the very senior level of the company right down to individual people working on the project, and this can be a hard thing to manage. It is often the case that everyone working on the project, whether remotely or in a very hands-on capacity, has different opposing ideas that can’t be easily meshed. This is when effective communicative skills are needed, and project managers must be aware of the importance of communication and transparency when working with a team. Understanding the problem from when it arises is the first step, as misunderstandings can just aggravate things further.

A lot of conflict resolution sounds like common sense, but there are various schools of thought on how to achieve the best results. Dealt with badly, conflict can develop into full blown disputes that threaten to derail the entire project, but well trained project manager should be better equipped with the skills required to deal with such situations. Different viewpoints and perspectives are essentially what makes projects work and will drive them to eventual success, but if this volatile mixture is not properly managed through techniques learnt through training courses such as those provided by ILX, disaster may lie in store.

First, the conflict and its reasons must be acknowledged by the project manager, and then they can get on with discussing and resolving the problem before it gets out of hand. Ignoring issues within the team can lead to much more serious problems much further down the line, and even the most trivial of disputes can cause significant upset if they arise at a critical moment. If the project manager listens to and understands each person’s position on a particular task or upcoming decision, then it is easier to avoid or resolve any bumps, large or small, along the way.

Project managers must avoid being sucked into the argument themselves, as this essentially eradicates the go-to problem solver from the equation, but every single team member must also be open and understanding about different ideas, perspectives and experiences. Once positions have been clarified, it is often useful to split into smaller groups of opposing opinions in order to reconcile the team as a whole. It is useful here for the project manager to be neutral.

Conflict resolution can often be one of the most important parts of any project manager role, but it is important to not let it interfere with all of the other parts of the job. Avoidance is best, and many training courses can offer solutions and preventative measures for project managers to employ.