10 Workplace Conflict Resolution Techniques For PMs

December 29, 2020

So you’re a Project Manager, and you encounter conflict from all angles, almost daily. Well conflict isn’t always a bad thing, and there are proven techniques to deal with it effectively.

At first glance, many people have the natural instinct to do everything possible to avoid conflict, but in the PM profession, this isn’t reality. So here are a few ways I have dealt with conflict in my years as a PM.

  • Listen – always listen attentively to hear what others are saying. You will be shocked at what you actually “hear” when you take the time to listen.The conflict you felt may actually be nothing more than miscommunication, which seems to be at the root of most conflict – especially when relying on email or private messaging communications, where intent isn’t always clearly written.
  • Acknowledge – sometimes all you need to do is acknowledge the person or person(s) involved, as they may be feeling left out of the loop. A simple acknowledgement can go a long way towards making teammates feel a part of the team, feel appreciated, etc.
  • Appease – sometimes it is easier to concede and appease the other party, especially if significant costs are involved, but only if it doesn’t impact the ultimate goals and outcomes of the project.
  • Revisit – Often, revisiting the original Statement of Work or requirements documents can help you resolve issues, especially relating to the direction the project is heading or timelines. You may also find it valuable to revisit any contracts, as there may be clauses for conflict resolution built in to the contract.
  • Take control – After all, you are the Project Manager, so stand firm if you believe your decision is the right one for the project. Making everyone happy on the project isn’t your ultimate goal, but finding a happy medium can be a good thing. Others will respect you for your strong position.
  • Delegate – As a PM, you are juggling a thousand tasks at once, so delegate another member of your team to handle conflicts, but make it someone you work with closely and someone you trust. I only refer to this team member as – Chief Conflict Resolution Officer – how’s that for a new title!
  • Collaborate – Find out the issue at hand, and work collaboratively to solve the problem. A little give from both sides and a positive result will appear. It may take time and a few rounds of back and forth discussion, but in the end it will be worth it.
  • Meet – Call a quick meeting with all involved parties to figure out the root of the problem and attack it as a group. Set a meeting agenda in advance and set a time limit so you stay focused and on topic. If anyone goes off topic, quickly pull them back in.
  • Mediate – Sometimes I have found it necessary to bring in someone from another department to help resolve a conflict. If there is a budgeting issue between the PM and the project lead, then maybe someone from the accounting team can help you out.
  • Bring in the “big guy” – If all else fails, you may find it necessary to escalate the problem to someone above you. This isn’t a bad thing, but I consider it a last resort.

Conflict during Project Management will never go away, but if you use the techniques outlined above at the first sign of conflict, you will be better prepared to keep the project moving forward, on time and on budget.