Conflict Management

What is a conflict? A difference of opinion, a difference in work styles, Or a difference in understanding? Could be all three or just something else.

A project manager many times must resolve conflicts within his team. What happens when he himself conflicts with another team member’s view. It is easy to say that you must be objective about things, but very difficult to practice and put yourself out of this passionate situation.

I am wondering more and more on this and trying to see a reason behind this conflict. What is a conflict? A difference of opinion, a difference in work styles, Or a difference in understanding? Could be all three or just something else.

If I take malicious intent aside and keep that as an extreme case, then one baseline I have to think is that both parties have something in common, which is, to get the project/delivery delivered with quality and within budget.

My learning from practical experience says that a conflict usually arises when we assess the risks differently. In the end, we’re only making decisions in binary Yes or No. Why two people say “Yes” & “No” to a common statement is only when they read the statement (or situation) differently. Why we read it differently? Because for every statement we try to think of failure modes (risks to fail) and then assess whether we should or should not do anything about it. 

We keep doing this process in our subconscious mind all the time, without realizing that this process has become part of our conscience and we find someone’s difference of opinion as naïve or stupid. I am not saying people don’t make stupid decisions or take wrong turns, but it is usually because there are ill-informed or haven’t thought of full scope or gamut of possibilities that come to others as natural.

I find my wife as my better half in the true sense as she challenges me to think more for each decision I make. I am thankful for her as she made me a better person and a better manager in many senses which even she doesn’t know. (Someone please share this post with her) 

Coming back to conflict management, the best way to keep yourself objective is to try to understand the perspective the other person is coming from. Some people have a tendency of being more risk-averse and some are more open to taking risks. If you keep yourself rigid with your perspective, then you’re closing the door to potentially more effective arguments that may be helpful for your own good.

Conclusion

As a project manager, as much we’re committed to the What and Why of the project, we may have to be more non-conformist about How. That would open a lot of opportunities for us to connect more with our teams and deliver quality.

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