Regardless of the goal, there is always conflict. The project manager must use their skills for conflict resolution in project management. It is a necessary skill, especially for construction. Construction is a series of projects with many teams working toward one common goal.
Is Conflict Always Bad?
Conflict has a bad name. People associate conflict with issues, stress, and delays; however, conflict can actually be beneficial. Conflict can shed light on issues with a plan or project. This forces people to discover ways around the issue or to develop skills to deal with issues like it in the future. The issue usually lies in the type of conflict and people handle the conflict.
Types of Conflict
The type of conflict is incredibly important to understand before trying conflict resolution in project management. Because each type of conflict has a resolution that works better for it. Knowing the right type of conflict resolution to use will help you solve issues faster. Below is a list of 6 types of conflict.
1. Perception of the Goal
Goal perception is important to project management. In order to manage a project, there must be an end goal. One major type of conflict is a misunderstanding of the goal or the solution. This is exhibited by two sides arguing the goal. Sometimes, once solutions are peeled away they have the same goal in mind, other times they are talking about two separate goals.
In competitive environments, it is easy for suspicion to arise. Because work is competitive it can be hard to create a collaborative environment. Everyone on the team’s behavior is often scrutinized. Differences and similarities in behavior and work can become flashpoints. Suspicion makes working as a team more difficult.
3. Perception of Issues
Project managers must know what the issues are in order to fix them. However, one type of conflict is a perception of issues. When people can’t agree on what the issue is, it’s harder to solve them. Another problem is when the issue isn’t defined, so the size of the issue becomes difficult to discern.
4. Lack of Communication
A lack of communication is the stem of most problems. When there isn’t communication between teams or between individuals, then teams may blow out of proportion the problems, issues, and conflicts. The deterioration of communication can be the cause of many conflicts either because information is missing or withheld or there isn’t communication.
5. Group Dynamics
Sometimes two people or groups don’t work well together. They might not communicate in a way that makes sense to the other person. They might have differences in personalities that makes it difficult to work together. Sometimes, a rigid group structure prevents a free flow of ideas and creates issues within group dynamics.
Tips for Conflict Resolution in Project Management
Just as there are many types of conflict, there are several types of conflict resolution. Some types of conflict resolution are better suited for certain types of conflict. Issues with communication or group dynamics are solved more easily through certain methods than others. And some conflicts don’t require a project manager to step in.
Confrontation, like conflict, doesn’t sound good for a project; however, confrontation can be problem-solving, collaborating and other fixes for conflict. Confrontation is convenient for times when multiple groups of people are finding it difficult to collaborate, but they are willing to learn from each other. However, there must be sufficient time for the project, and people must trust the mediating party.
Conflict resolution in project management can benefit from compromise in specific situations. If the stakes are medium, there isn’t enough time, and you are in deadlock, compromising on a part of the project can be a quick way to mitigate conflict. Compromise maintains relationships, which is why it’s preferred when possible.
This type of conflict resolution in project management can really benefit projects of both parties have more in common than differences. Accommodating usually involves emphasizing the similarities in solutions, works well in low-risk stakes situations, and either solution will work. It can help you gain time on a project and creates a trade-off obligation in the future.
Sometimes conflict resolution can be reached through avoidance. When you need to gain time, the problem might go away, or the problem isn’t pressing, avoidance is best. In other conflict types, it is a temporary solution. However, sometimes there isn’t a good solution and it’s better to remain a neutral party.
Forcing should be the last type of conflict resolution in project management because it does create a winning and losing party. It’s really only advisable when the stakes are very high, there isn’t enough time, and maintaining a relationship isn’t important. Therefore, in situations of For high-stakes conflicts, or conflicts where experience dictates a specific answer, it can be useful.