Conflict is essentially any sort of disagreement between parties involved in a group. Conflicts are not limited to work place but are a part of our everyday life. They arise when there is a clash of opinions or principles and coming to a consensus becomes an issue. A conflict more often than not can be unpleasant but if right steps are taken to counter it, can help build a stronger bond and present great number of opportunities for improvement in a work place. Speaking with respect to an organisation/work place, conflicts could arise between any of the stakeholders that are involved with the said organisation, so it becomes crucial to handle them delicately and methodically as this could have a negative outcome even with one wrong move.
When inefficiently managed, conflicts can breakdown trust among the concerned parties and will ultimately cause an adverse effect on the team as a whole which not only questions the credibility of the person leading it (Project Manager), but also the organisation. So understanding the conflict, perceiving it from an impartial ground and adopting a suitable technique to resolve the said conflict is an important trait for a Project Manager. The technique used to resolve can vary from one person/team to another. There are five methods that are recommended and most commonly used as described below.
Each of these techniques come with their own advantages and disadvantages but nevertheless research has proved that more often than not, they work and produce a positive effect.
Collaborate– This technique involves understanding the situation from everyone’s standpoint and attempting to come to a solution collaboratively in a way that everyone concerned is satisfied with the solution agreed upon. It is said that when conflicts are solved with this technique, one can achieve a win-win situation.
Some advantages of this technique includes developing trust and respect among the parties involved, sharing responsibility which further sets a strong foundation for effective co-operation in the future. However, the whole process can be time consuming and would require a lot of effort from both the person leading it and the team to come to a common consensus. As is the nature of human beings, a person’s outlook may change from time to time and what has been agreed upon could be disputed later leading to the problem going back to square one. So it is essential to develop a cooperating attitude within the team for mutual benefit and that of the team.
Compromise – As the name suggests, this technique typically requires parties concerned to give up something that they want to come to a solution that partially satisfies all parties. This technique would essentially allow the parties to gain something if not everything, it is sometimes referred to as lose-lose situation but in the end the solution is accepted mutually by all.
This technique is predominantly used when time is of the essence and coming to a temporary solution is essential for the time being. Also it simmers down the stress caused among the parties. But this technique could very easily lead to a situation where the parties are not satisfied with the solution at all and furthermore could lead to trust issues within the team. So constant monitoring and exercising control may become necessary to ensure terms that are agreed upon are being met.
Accommodate/Smoothen- This technique focuses more on the concerns of other parties than one’s own. In other words, giving what the other party wants and downplaying the entire conflict to avoid tensions in order to gain control of the entire situation.
This technique can pacify a situation temporarily and create an opportunity to view the entire conflict from a different angle so to come to a permanent solution. This ensures that there exists an agreement among the concerned parties and help protect everyone’s interests. The disadvantages of this technique is that the other parties can mistake PM’s technique of giving in and take advantage of the situation and could also create a sense of doubt on the PM’s leadership qualities
Force– This technique, often referred to as a win-lose situation, wherein one view-point is held high at the expense of other, i.e. one party loses while the other wins. The PM usually forces this decision on the team members risking the team’s morale.
This technique can prove to be beneficial when a quick resolution is necessary for a conflict provided it is backed with proper justification (in case of emergency situations) or when a conflict has been stretched over a long period of time and resolving it becomes irrefutable. However, this technique could create a negative impact on the team since not everyone would react to force submissively. It may also take a lot of effort and could cost the PM’s impression on the team.
Avoid/Withdraw– This is basically avoiding the conflict or refusing to acknowledge the existence of it and hoping that it would resolve itself. Technically this is not an approach to conflict resolution as it can be perceived as a weakness of the person in charge and could have an adverse effect on the person’s relationship with the rest of the team or even their role as a leader.
However this technique can come in handy during times where the team needs time to cool off after a heated discussion, for example or when the issue is trivial and one rather focus on other productive issues. It is still a temporary solution in case of significant conflicts , sooner or later the team needs to get together to come to a permanent solution by using other techniques as putting the conflict off could result in a negative outcome and cast a shadow on credibility.
In conclusion, there is no one way for conflict resolution, it definitely varies from one situation to another and to the person responsible for resolving it. As much as it could contribute to strengthening the team and opening up opportunities and ideas, it is necessary that they are handled on time with greatest efficiency and people management skills.