Project Management

Resolving Conflicts: Ideas for Better Results and Retention

Mike Griffiths is an experienced project manager, author and consultant who works for PMI as a subject matter expert. Before joining PMI, Mike consulted and managed innovation and technology projects throughout Europe, North and South America for 30+ years. He was co-lead for the PMBOK Guide—Seventh Edition, lead for the Agile Practice Guide, and contributor to the PMI-ACP and PMP exam content outlines. Outside of PMI, Mike maintains the websites www.LeadingAnswers.com about leading teams and www.PMillustrated.com, which teaches project management for visual learners.

Is infighting damaging team morale and retention? Do you know what types of conflict are healthy and which are not? When you do intervene, do you have a strategy, or just ”wing it” and hope for the best?

People have different ideas; this diversity helps us overcome any individual shortcomings. It also means conflict is inevitable on projects. Whenever we have people contribute different opinions about a solution, there will be some level of conflict. Minor disagreement in the pursuit of a better solution is positive and welcome. Persistent bickering and personal attacks are destructive and need to be addressed. So how do we do that?

First, let's acknowledge conflict resolution approaches should be tailored to each unique situation. There is no single simple solution; otherwise, people would walk through the process themselves. Instead, we need to find our way based on the circumstances occurring.

So while there is no formula, it is helpful to have some strategies, some models to guide our thought process. This article outlines some basic models for conflict resolution to be aware of—and maybe incorporate if they help in your situation.

The first of the conflict models we will review helps us understand and characterize various levels of conflict. Intuitively, we know healthy debate helps us develop stronger solutions and is generally a good …


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If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man but deteriorate the cat.

- Mark Twain

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