In the corporate environment we work with people, People work with their sentiments and when sentiments get hurt, it leads to conflicts. Conflicts are inevitable because there is a saying- “Munde Munde Matir Bhinna” Means “Different individual have different opinions”.
Opinions are either based on experience of the person or the upbringing or conditioning and opinions if managed properly leads to creativity or a better way to work. But it equally stands right that opinion leads to conflicts.
Conflicts can be at any level. It can be either between project goal and organization’s strategy, or sometimes Team goal are in conflict with Project goal. Conflicts arises between peer groups or Peer to superiors or with Management as well.
So to work as a team, conflict resolution is incumbent and a big test for a Lead or a Manager to identify it as early as possible and then address, handle, Control and resolve it effectively. A Successful conflict management foster a positive work environment and good work relationship which further foster greater productivity.
Why Conflict arises?
There are a number of reasons for the conflicts to arise and few are briefed up below-
The work style of a person also sometimes leads to conflict as few personalities are of bully type, some are stereotype and some are aggressive and some are passive. Such different personalities when group together in a team are tend to conflicts.
b. Resource scarcity/overburden:
In many cases the resources are shared among teams. This sharing or resources leads to conflicts among peers or peers of different teams due to their commitments and priority.
Someone has rightly said “Process is as important as Product”. Without a well-defined process you can’t expect a quality product. I myself is a follower of such thinking. But sometimes this processes leads to conflicts. In firefighting situations, you sometime need to bypass some optional process but due to defined and strict processes it leads unwanted conflicts.
d. Project constraints:
Three basic identified project constraints (scheduling priorities, cost, scope) are key factor for the conflicts. Balancing all these three constraints is a herculean task and need re-activeness on part of leads and Managers.
e. Management pressure:
Management goal and project goals sometimes deviate and lead to conflicts and here management wins.
f. Virtual teams:
Today is the era of global operations and that leads to virtual teams and no collocation. In virtual teams the conflicts are more likely to happened as most of the communication is either written (email, Chat) or verbal (phone, VOIP) and the receiver doesn’t see the facial expression of the sender and can’t judge the sense of the words and can easily take in his own words and leads to conflicts.
g. Culture Differences:
Cultural differences are one of the key reasons for conflicts and are hard to resolve as it is extremely sensitive since a person is conditioned in his culture and if something hurt his culture will take it personally and will lead to conflicts. That is more prone in industries having global operations simultaneously.
How to Resolve Conflicts?
Resolving conflicts in constructive manner is very crucial. Both Management skills and interpersonal skills are needed to handle and resolve conflicts. Unresolved or mal handled conflicts lead to ripple effect and can adversely affect the project. So leaders /managers should be extremely careful while addressing and resolving conflicts.
Generally, PM should limit himself as facilitator unless it starts affecting the project adversely. One more thing which should be taken care is, that conflicts should be addressed in private, direct and in collaborative manner.
Conflicts can be handled in different style. Few of them are-
- Include person in decision making: If a conflicts relates to the person’s motivation or area of interest that person should be included in decision making.
- Team Building activities: In the competitive corporate culture people only interact for deadlines, priorities, slippage, delivery failure, and all such communication are formal. A team building actives and other informal activities always help in keeping the conflicts to low.
- Motivation: Everyone works for rewards, Recognition, affiliation. All organizational theories back that if employees are kept motivated conflicts can be minimized and can be handled more smoothly.
- Understanding cultural differences: Before the conflicts related to cultural differences are addressed the Leads/Managers should not only aware but understand the cultural differences and only intervene if it is possible to remove the differences.
- Share credit in success: Project related conflicts can also be handled by sharing the credit of the success among team members.
- Training, counselling: Personality related conflicts are generally addressed through counselling and training of people management.
- Setting ground rules: Setting Do’s and Don’ts in the team often help in reducing conflicts. It is also seen that having ground rules ease every member to understand their responsibility and limit areas.
- Effective and efficient and open communication: conflicts mostly arise due to communication and it is resolved through effective, open and efficient communication only. PM should be proficient in effective and efficient communication. He should also try to make his communication open unless it is of confidential nature.
- Sometimes PM need to influence his decision to resolve the conflicts in cases where both the parties are rigid to their deeds.
- Formal resolution: If none of the above action appears fruitful, the only resolution left is disciplinary action. This should be least used.
NOTE: All the above resolution is not permanent and should be ongoing and need to keep a monitor from time to time and necessary action should be taken.
Theories have identified 5 main techniques of dealing with conflict that vary in their degrees of cooperativeness and assertiveness. Though there are no rules for it and depends on personality of the person yet they are preferred conflict resolution style depending on the situations.
- Collaborate: The best and preferred technique is to collaborate. Listen everyone’s viewpoints, have open dialog and try to resolve the issue once for all.
- Accommodate: Another way to resolve is to accommodate, where your emphasis is more on the area of agreements and try to resolve differences and try to make a relationship of harmony.
- Compromise: In this resolution technique, everyone is asked lose or ease some concern. It is generally a temporary solution. It is also called lose-lose resolution.
- Avoid: In the issue is either postponed or no action taken. Only effective for temporary conflicts.
- Force: In this one’s view point is forced to other party. Possible where power is involved or a real fire fitting situation arises. It is also called Win-Lose resolution.
Success of project so as the lead/manager largely depends on their ability to resolve conflicts. There is no fix formula for resolving conflicts and different person handle the same conflicts differently. But what matters is, identifying the conflicts the soonest, addressing it privately if possible and effectively handling so that there is a win- win situation for everyone. Lastly, effective open communication is key to conflict resolution.