Thursday, July 23, 2009

How to Resolve Project Conflict

Here's how to face and deal with conflict within your project team...

You need to face conflict and not ignore it, as ignoring it only makes the problem worse. The earlier you face it, the easier it will be to resolve. Here are some examples of conflict you might experience on projects:

  • Your boss is frustrated with progress and takes it out on you openly, in front of others in your team.
  • Your colleague wants something from you that you can't give them, or can't do for them within the time frame required so they get angry.
  • Your staff think you're being unrealistic about time frames, so they handle it badly by raising their voice and being obstructive.

When conflict occurs, take these steps:

  • Time out: If the other person is getting heated, tell them you need to take five minutes to collect your thoughts. Then make a coffee or go for a walk. This will help you both to calm down and reflect on what has happened.
  • A pacifier: When you restart your conversation, start with "I know that you're under pressure because of... " This will pacify them a little and will make the atmosphere more positive.
  • Problem solving: Then agree that a problem exists and that you both need to work together to resolve it constructively. Discuss the various solutions to the problem and try to agree on the pros and cons of each before deciding on the best course of action.
  • Body language: While all this is happening, you need to focus on your body language. Use open stances. Take your hands out of your pockets and never fold your arms. Try and use slow hand movements. Use a passive voice and don't show emotion. Maintain good eye contact. Listen carefully and watch their body language as well.
  • A mediator: If the above steps are going poorly, then you need to get someone else involved who can help mediate informally. Tell them you'd like to add a colleague to the conversation as they will have ideas for a solution. Then invite someone who is a good problem solver, whom you trust.
  • Giving feedback: When the conversation becomes a little more relaxed, it's time to give the person some constructive feedback. Let them know how you would like them to deal with you next time a similar issue comes up. Only by giving positive constructive feedback, can you change their behaviour.


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