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10 Ways to Manage Conflict in Project Teams


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Conflict is a necessary part of a healthy team and organization. But too much conflict can be toxic and negatively affect your productivity. Here are 10 ways to effectively manage conflict on project teams.

Adapted from: Managing Technology-Based Projects by Hans J. Thamhain

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10 Ways to Manage Conflict in Project Teams

  2. 2. 1 BE A SUBJECT EXPERT Without an understanding of current trends, technology, and work processes, it is difficult to win the confidence of the team and to build the credibility needed to manage conflict across projects.
  3. 3. 2USE EXPERTISE JUDICIOUSLY If flaunted, expertise can be intimidating and demotivating to the team. It biases solutions toward the project manager’s ideas, which in turn weakens any team buy-in.
  4. 4. PLAN PROJECTS EFFECTIVELY3 Effective planning early in the project life cycle is important to minimize confusion and ambiguity that might lead to conflict later during the project execution phase.
  5. 5. 4CATCH CONFLICT EARLY Good project managers know when conflict is under control and being handled by the team and when some early intervention is necessary. Tools for intervention include regular gate reviews, an open-door policy, action teams, and focus groups.
  6. 6. 5 AVOID THE QUICK SOLUTION TRAP A quick agreement on fixing a major problem should be looked at with suspicion. To avoid this trap, project managers should follow up on agreements with an email or second meeting to iron out details and make sure that the issues have been addressed.
  7. 7. The initial objective of most conflict resolution is to reach consensus, not necessarily unanimity, on how to proceed. This requires common ground found through mutual respect for everyone’s ideas, opinions, and suggestions. 6FACILITATE COLLABORATION AND CONSENSUS
  8. 8. 7 THE ART OF LISTENING Active listening includes questions of clarification to understand the arguments of the opposing party. It is an important catalyst for fostering an environment open to discussing issues and searching for solutions.
  9. 9. USE JUDGMENT BEFORE RESORTING TO FORCING OR WITHDRAWING 8 While appropriate and effective in certain situations, forcing and withdrawing can have adverse effects if used inappropriately, especially when dealing with conflict across functional lines.
  10. 10. Less autocratic, more team-centered manage- ment styles that provide space for autonomy and self-direction foster an environment of lower conflict, both in intensity and frequency. 9 FINE-TUNE YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE
  11. 11. CREATE A PROFESSIONALLY STIMULATING WORKPLACE 10 A professionally exciting, vibrant envi- ronment is a strong catalyst for conflict self-management. Project managers should try to accommo- date the professional interests and desires of supporting personnel when negotiating their tasks whenever possible.
  12. 12. Wiley is a registered trademark of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Adapted from Managing Technology-Based Projects by Hans J. Thamhain Business people conflict © mast3r/Shutterstock Leader of the team © cogal/iStockphoto