3 Common Culprits: Conflict Management for Project Managers

When you consider that approximately 63% of project managers claim that lack of communication is one of the biggest challenges they face, this creates a breeding ground for potential conflicts. Increasingly, project managers are dealing with a number of difficulties: longer hours, managing remote team members alongside of on-site contributors, rapidly approaching deadlines and greater expectations from bosses and managing executives.

In the Chaos Theory Report, 48% of the surveyed project managers complained that the stress from the office and the conflicts they faced were spilling over into their personal lives. In turn, this stress seems to boomerang back with devastating effects on budgets and deadlines.

In order to mitigate the damage and devastation of conflicts in project management teams, the first step is in identifying the underlying issues. Here are three of the most common culprits to root out for successful conflict management for project managers.

Conflict Culprit #1: Using a One-Size-Fits-All Communication Approach

People listen and learn very differently. Although fast communication outlets like email or text messaging are efficient, they aren’t always the most effective ways to broadcast a message. Written communications lack the inflections of the spoken word or the visual clues offered by face-to-face interaction.

If your team members seem constantly confused by your instructions or communications, try using a different communication outlet to get your message across. Though it might take some additional time to make a phone call or initiate a video chat, it can prevent a great deal of wasted time later on down the road when key deliverables or deadlines get missed due to miscommunication.

Conflict Culprit #2: Scope Change (or Creep)

When a team has worked tirelessly for the last six weeks to develop a plan for introducing a new product to the market and get confronted with significant design or performance changes, conflict is inevitable. While it isn’t possible to read the minds of key stakeholders and executives, paying close attention to the water cooler discussions and remaining in the loop can help prevent (or at least predict) scope changes before they become a matter of fact and not just speculation.

If changes like this are frustrating for you as the project manager, imagine what other members of the team feel like. Frustration is contagious and raw nerves can lead to emotional eruptions. When scope change or creep begins to interfere with your ability to work effectively as a team, take time out to communicate your frustrations and brainstorm solutions together. It’s just as important to share the burdens of setbacks as it is to share in the joys of success!

Conflict Culprit #3: Past Problems on a Project Team

Sometimes, people just don’t get along. No matter what the reason behind the conflict is, throwing two or more team members with personal issues into the same project can ignite other conflicts along the way. Sometimes, it pays to know what’s going on (or has gone on) between members of your team. If they’ve worked together in the past in other departments, ask around to see how well they worked together. If problems surface, look for ways that you can encourage the two members to work together without throwing them in cramped quarters or forcing them to interact intimately over the long-term.

Personality differences exist, and you must account for them. The more effectively you can identify personal issues that could later infect the rest of the team, the easier it is to keep conflict out of the creative and development stages of the project management process.

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