Project Management

3 Steps Toward Resolving Team Conflict

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Categories: Conflict, Team


by Christian Bisson

Conflicts arise on any team. It’s inevitable. What’s important is making sure they’re resolved before they grow into something bigger.

It often feels like unfamiliar territory to some, but resolver of conflicts is one of the many hats a scrum master must wear. And while there’s no singular right way to resolve conflict, I’ve found success with following steps:

Listen—actively.

Ensure those in the conflict have someone they can talk to. Once they get their feelings out, the door is open for them to act more rationally toward the other, or it gives you an opportunity to go deeper (see below).

Encourage a conversation.

It may sound simple, but a big part of conflict resolution is allowing both sides to hear one another. By default, we work to avoid conflicts and we’ll avoid the conversation that we know we should have as adults to make our conflict go away. 

As a scrum master, there’s room to suggest bringing the other party into the resolution. The worst that will happen is that the team member will refuse, giving you an opportunity to dig deeper to gain a greater understanding and then ask questions to understand what’s really going on.

Dig deep.

Even after you listen and encourage a conversation, it still may not be enough to resolve the situation. You may have to dig a bit deeper. Analyze the situation: Who initiated the conflict? In other words, who seemed to respond negatively to an event/response? That’s the first person you want to talk to. Ask open-ended questions to help the team member arrive at a rational thought/answer. And hopefully, that person will open up.

What are your biggest lessons learned from resolving conflict within your project teams

Posted by Christian Bisson on: September 27, 2020 03:00 PM | Permalink

Comments (7)

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Hi Christian,
The bluntness of your introduction ''Conflicts arise on any team. It’s inevitable'' is so powerful and will burst the bubble of PMs that think their leadership style can erase team conflict... My personal opinion is that active listening is the strongest key to resolving team conflict

Very interesting, thanks for sharing.

I agree with your points. I use the term listen generously as opposed to listen actively, either seem interchangeable. The only thing I would add is that after the deep dive maybe there needs to be a conversation if the project is the right fit for that person. Thanks for sharing.

The most important lesson learnt in my previous organization was letting everyone have thier opinion

Those are the solutions for the best case scenario, and I totally agree with them. In my experience, when a couple of team members already entered into a conflict, it will be hard for them to fix it without a toll to their own proud, most likely they will not give up, and the last resource must be used: the PM has to do a strong call to the resources professionalism, ask them to put the project interests in priority, because the only other option is very clear, they have to be removed from the project. Usually, when resources do feel their jobs are at risk, they will realize of their wrong behavior, they will adapt and try to work together in a more professional way.

Thank you everyone for sharing your experience. Any thoughts on how to manage individual egos and calming it down after the conflict? Lot of times, it happens that after conversations, we ask one team member to adjust iterating message that project interest is bigger goal for everyone, however not everyone is able to accept it and still ego clashes keep happening in the background. Any thoughts on how to calm the egos and such after-effect situation? Thank you.

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