How to nip a team conflict in the bud

Monday, May 12th, 2014 By Jack Nevison

Knowing how to address team friction in a healthy, productive fashion is crucial for the success of a project. While disputes are unavoidable, the ability to anticipate a conflict before it erupts is a necessary skill for project managers to master in order to maintain a peaceful and successful team.

There are many reasons why discord is rife in many offices. Competition between team members, pride, salary inequality, power struggles and performance discrepancies are the usual suspects listed by Forbes magazine. Mike Myatt, Forbes preeminent contributor on leadership issues, offered some advice for PM's in settling or avoiding office disputes before they become disruptive.

  • Define acceptable behavior. Clearly defined job descriptions and project roles let team members know what is expected of them in their work. Similarly, never assume that your team knows or can come up with a definition of acceptable behavior on their own. Describe and publish exactly what conduct will and will not be tolerated and you can avoid many unpleasant scenarios in the future.
  • Seek out areas of potential conflict. Myatt argues that the secret to conflict resolution is actually conflict prevention. While it's impossible to foresee every area of disagreement, by anticipating potential clashes and intervening early and decisively, you can nip them in the bud.
  • Use conflict as a teaching opportunity. Every conflict holds the potential for a significant learning or teaching opportunity. Divergent opinions can stimulate innovation, and effective project managers will look for the positive in conflicting opinions.

New Leaf Project Management's free white paper titled "The Responsibility Assignment Matrix" can help clarify team roles to avoid some potential sources of conflict. In addition, our QPM games offer an affordable way to learn while you earn PDU credits for PMP recertification.

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