How to manage a team conflict?

IC Project , 21 May, 2018

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Are there two identical persons in the world? Who always agree in 100%, have the same talents, the same opinions, identical access to knowledge and resources, the same family situation? Differences support development. We confront and support each other. It is not possible to avoid conflicts in a team completely. For this reason, it is necessary to learn how to manage them.

A good conflict is not bad

One of the key mistakes in team management is acceptance of apparent harmony. Team members disagree with each other, think that the project should take a different direction, talk behind the back of their colleague claiming hefails to fulfil his duties and affects the morale. They all smile to one other, but there is no mutual trust. They are silent.  Patrick Lencioni refers to such a situation as one of five forms of team work dysfunctions. Officially, there is no conflict, but the group does not function as it should.

At the same time, a well-managed conflict can be constructive and stimulating. It is necessary to find room to process it. That is why communication is so important.

Create room for discussion

A great deal of conflicts results from misunderstandings in communication and inability to understand the other party and their point of view. Therefore, you need to create room for discussion. Allow the team to exchange their opinions, have their own views as well as worse days and occasional dissatisfaction.  Teach the group to give constructive feedback. Organise a meeting at which everyone can speak out their mind without the fear of losing their position in the company. Then, it can turn out that a conflict results from the lack of one common goal, insufficiently unspecified duties or rights, or from defective circulation of information. No one wants to be uninformed.  Especially when they have a feeling that everybody knows about something except for them.

Such regular talks allow to clear the air and quickly identify and eliminate problems.

Observe, draw conclusions and act

A good manager knows its team and notices things that are unobservable at the first glance. He realises when a situation becomes difficult and does not avoid mediation. How to solve a conflict?

  1. Listen and analyse

It is important to identify the parties to the conflict. They are not always 2 persons – it is often the case that there are coalitions or silent support. The team polarises and divides into a few factions. Try to get to the bottom through observation and discussion. It is not about finding the person who started the conflict and accuse them. It will only make the situation worse. Ask for opinions, feelings and learn about mutual accusations.

  1. Confront conflicted parties and control

At the start, it is a good solution to make conflicted parties work together on a specific task. Confront them with each other, but according to predetermined terms where each of them has specific tasks assigned. Thus, you will create room for discussion. Do not limit contacts between team members as it will only make mutual resentment grow.

  1. Organise mediation

When conflict participants cannot deal with it on their own or simply do not want to solve it, it is high time for mediation. It  may so happen that the project manager is the mediator, but he often works too closely with the team to be considered impartial. Then, such a role is assumed by an employee from the HR or another company department.

A mediator cannot support any of the parties, he needs to hear all the opinions, claims, convictions. He cannot criticise or protect anyone, but he should make it easier for both team members to understand their particular points of view. He sometimes needs to be like a mirror in which the conflicted parties can observe their behaviour. He should help to find motives and identify factors making the conflict worse. It is a fact that many of them exacerbate due to such reasons as stress, misunderstanding, family problems or deadline pressure. Determination of such factors is key to solving the conflict.

Manage the conflict on a daily basis

Conflict management does not mean only taking action when everything collapses. For this reason, you need to taje care of clear communication in the team, good information exchange and constructive discussions without false understanding on a daily basis.  From time to time, everyone needs to break the tension caused by a deadline or a long line of e-mails from a client asking for correction. Then, it is good to pack your luggage and set off on an integration trip with your team or just talk and organise a night out.

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