Managing Conflict in a Project Team

  • 20 October, 2014

"Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means"
"Be quick to resolve conflicts before they mature to become wars. The energetic crocodile was once a delicate egg!" - Israelmore Ayivor, The Great Hand Book of Quotes
Managing Conflict in a Project Team

Conflict may be defined as a difference of opinions and actions that prevent smooth functioning of a project. Conflict may occur due to a lot of reasons. We human beings are not similar to each other, and just as our fingerprints are unique our thoughts and actions are also unique and different. These differences can lead to conflict.


1. Insufficient Resources: Sometimes the cause of conflict may be due to insufficient or few resources to complete the project. The project may need five human resources to complete the work on time; but, the project may be allocated just two resources. This lesser number of resources leads to too much workload and work pressure for the team members and will eventually lead to conflict. Similarly, if the inventory team is not stocking up adequate raw materials needed for production, this also may lead to a conflict. Therefore, resource scarcity must be reduced to avoid conflicts. As a project manager you should make sure that there are adequate resources to complete a project.

2. Differing Priorities: Normally the priorities of all team members have to be aligned; however sometimes the priorities of team members may be different. For example, the project lead may insist on completing the project on time. But the team member may be taking additional time to deliver the product with a focus on quality. This quality vs. deadline dilemma leads to conflict in projects. When you are a project manager, you must make a balanced decision as to what aspect of the project is important based on customer study and needs.

3. Different Working Styles: One team member may be hardworking but may not communicate well. Another team member may be lazy and leave tasks incomplete. Another team member may be socially very active and act as a liaison between the team members. Another team member maybe questioning all the policies; another team member may be creative and always bursting with new ideas. One team member may be willing to work late nights. While another team member may prefer to come in early in the morning and go home early. A project manager must be aware of the working styles of each team member and make sure that the differing styles do not lead to conflict.

4. Methods and Techniques to Reduce Conflict: To reduce the different types of conflict every team should follow certain rules and regulations. Project team members may need instruction on appropriate behavior in a group. Sometimes a project manager can encourage the team members to resolve a conflict among themselves. Or if there is a time crunch, then the project manager can intervene and resolve the conflict. The areas of similarity in a conflict can be emphasized. If there is a partial or temporary solution for the conflict then it can be implemented. Sometimes, the project manager needs to force a solution even if others do not agree. If none of the techniques are working, then the project manager must think of disciplinary action to resolve the conflict.

The PMP Exam Prep Course of School of PM explores in detail the topic of Conflict Management.

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