Oct 27, 2010

Conflict Resolution :o)

Conflicts on teams are a fact of life! Only on rare occasions do conflicts not arise - even on the smallest projects conflicts rear their ugly heads! It's human nature to have conflicts and it arises for any number of reasons, including:

  • Misunderstandings
  • Personality clashes
  • Disagreements about the right way to approach a problem
  • Egos

As a team leader/member (after all, we are all leaders at times, regardless of title, it is a behavior - not a title), part of your responsibilities includes managing conflicts. The best way to manage a conflict is to ensure that the parties involved in the conflict are the ones developing the solution. You can't resolve it for them; they have to come to agreement on how to resolve the conflict themselves.

Here are some suggestions to get you moving in the right direction:

Schedule a first meeting with the individuals who are having the conflict to discuss:
  • What is (are) the issue(s)? Get it all out on the table - let them vent.
  • What are their perspectives?
  • Work with the parties to develop criteria for solutions to their conflict.
  • Ask them to think about what they can do to get past the issue, or put it aside, based on the criteria for resolution they agreed to, in order to move forward with working together. What alternatives exist? This should happen overnight - let them sleep on it.

Schedule a meeting for the following day to discuss how the conflict between the individuals might be resolved.
  • Ask them their ideas on how to move forward with resolving the issue - what did they think about the evening before, based on the criteria agreed to, that may help to resolve the conflict.
  •  What alternatives can they come up with to work together effectively?
  • Can they come to consensus on any of the alternatives?

Your role here will be to get them talking to each other about their ideas to resolve the conflict and, ideally, coming to a consensus on how to resolve it.

Once a consensus has been reached - or there is agreement on how to work together in spite of the conflict between them - review what was agreed and get their commitment that they will continue to work on the resolution of the conflict (as we know it won't go away immediately!) and abide by the plan they developed to resolve it.

Bear in mind that sometimes a conflict cannot be resolved. For example, you may have two individuals on the project team that just are not going to get along no matter what - too much has happened between them. If you can't help them resolve their conflict, they must, at the very least, work together professionally for the good of the team and the project. Your job in this case, then is to help them figure out how they are going to get through this project being cordial and professional with each other.



  1. Oh yes. We get this drilled into our heads all the time. We even have names for the different levels of conflict participants. SIGH

  2. I get to deal with this all the time now-our business class teacher put us in to groups of five people-and made sure to make the groups up of people who are all different..constant compromise and little arguments every time our class meets.

  3. Oh my.......levels of conflict will be rising at my Condo Budget Meeting tonight. I hate to attend these things but I have to........Ugh.

    All the rude Condo Commandos!

  4. Fascinating how our (necessarily) different minds view the same phenomenon. Makes me think that phenomena are multi-dimensional and require different perspectives to complete anything close to a comprehensive understanding.

    Raised voices and angry or hurt feelings are a pain, but, since differing viewpoints are required, there's just no getting around them. Might as well make it a game.

  5. Hi Ken,
    You're absolutely right ... conflict is part of life, unfortunately. I've noticed some people tend to create it more than others, though ...


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