5 Tactics for Conflict Resolution

leadership Feb 05, 2019

Diversity can often be a treasured asset on a team. Different personalities bring different strengths and interests, and can be the perfect recipe for constructive collaboration- in a best case scenario. However- diverse teams, with strong differing opinions and poor communication- can sometimes lead to the inevitable… inner team conflict. As unpleasant as it may be, mediating battling teammates is a scenario project managers need to be prepared for.

From time off requests to perceived slights or preferential treatment, there are a million small things can throw off the delicate balance of a team. When individual rely on each other for success, like they do in a team, this can be the death of a project. While we can do our best to avoid it, quickly acknowledging and mediating team conflicts can be just as effective. In fact, while unpleasant, team conflict can be an avenue for both team and individual growth. If dealt with correctly, it can lead to a stronger team with a greater understanding and appreciation for the individuals within the group.

Because conflict is an often unavoidable part of management, being prepared to step in and mediate the situation can make all the difference. The next time that conflict erupts on your team, consider using these 5 tactics for de-escalating the situation:

  1. Listen. Sometimes the best way to end a conflict in to bring in an objective third party. Take each party aside, separately, and learn about their grievances. Most conflict stems from misunderstanding. It may be as simple as poor communication or missed information- but taking the time to listen and fill in the gaps makes all the difference.
  2. Don’t make it personal. Let’s be honest- not everyone gets along. What some people may see as a strength, others might find an annoyance. When addressing the grievances of the injured parties, make sure that personal issues aren’t clouding the situation. Are these two people fighting because there is an actual issue, or are they just incompatible? If the latter is true, make sure to distinguish the difference between an actual conflict and a personality clash.
  3. Get to the root of the issue. Make sure to listen to each side carefully and discern what the real cause of the conflict is. A surface issue might in fact be covering a much deeper problem, try to avoid future conflicts by digging deep enough to get to the truth.
  4. Mediate. Once you have spoken to each party and found the cause of the issue, bring both parties together to talk it through. With your guidance and new understanding of the situation, explain openly your understanding of the issue at hand. Have a firm understanding of your plan for resolving the issue beforehand, so as not to be derailed by arguing employees. Encourage discussion and actively listen to the conversation. The best conflict resolution happens when both parties openly discuss their feelings with each other.
  5. Move forward. After meeting with the aggrieved parties, put the agreed upon plan into action. Are the employees required to keep a log of daily hours? Check it. Were they told to send written communications regarding a task they were in disagreement about? Have them ‘cc’ you on the emails. Make sure that you are involved in the resolution and that the action plan for mitigating future disagreements is followed through thoroughly.

While team conflicts can be alarming at times, having a plan in place to deal with these occurrences can help minimize them swiftly. When bad feelings are allowed to grow and fester, they can be the death of a project for even the most competent project manager. While conflict can be uncomfortable, do your best to leverage these incidences as learning tool for your team. Let them know that their feelings are honored and respected, and that you will help them find a resolution that works for them.

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