What If We Can’t Get Along?

Most of us dislike conflict and prefer to avoid it than confront it.  If we don’t learn how to deal with conflict, the danger is when conflict arises, the situation will soon escalate into something destructive that causes long-term damage to relationships and teamwork.

Most project teams are thrust together and expected to get the job done as quickly as possible.  This often leaves little time to identify and agree to a set of behaviors and expectations as how team members will act when dealing with conflict.  As a result, most project teams must share a common understanding:

  • Everyone on the team is unique, with distinctive personalities and working styles
  • Teams should anticipate conflict
  • Team members should identify ways to mitigate discord with which everyone can live

Establish a conflict resolution process that is acceptable to everyone on the team.  In most cases, a 4-step process is all that is needed:

  1. Individuals will try to resolve the conflict with each other
  2. If two individuals cannot resolve the conflict, the team leader will intervene
  3. If the team leader cannot facilitate resolution, an outside facilitator will mediate
  4. Once the conflict is resolved, other team members will be apprised of the outcome

Conflict between individuals that remains unresolved tends to escalate until each party attempts to defend the other.  Not only is this destructive to the individuals directly involved, but it can also infect their teammates as well.  The key is to find the right time and way to deal with conflict.

Lisa DiTullio, Principal, Your Project Office, www.yourprojectoffice.com


1 thought on “What If We Can’t Get Along?”

  1. User Avatar

    This is great advice. Another method is to actually setup ground rules or conflict protocols BEFORE anything starts. Acknowledging that every project will hit some speed bumps along the way, and having a plan “up front” on how the team (as a team) will handle them — is a great way to defuse the situation before it starts.

    Even though at the start of a project is a great place to do it, you can set ground rules or conflict protocols at any point and review/remind/modify at appropriate milestones along the way. The ground rules or conflict protocols can also be different depending who the players are: outsourced contractors, in-house teams, executive level, customers, sales or customer advocacy teams, etc.

    Let me know how that works for you.

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