Conflict Management Resolution

Types of Conflict Management Resolution

Almost every project introduces conflict of various sorts.  Conflicts can occur due to resource issues, schedule issues, budget issues, and scope disagreements just to name a few.  The project manager must know how to deal with conflict and learn to resolve conflict.  Generally, there are six types of conflict management resolution techniques:

Confronting (or “problem solving”) – this technique deals with conflict directly as a problem to be resolved.  This technique requires open communication and cooperation to solve the conflict.  This technique usually results in a “win-win” solution where both parties benefit from the resolution.  This technique may usually take longer and is more complex than other techniques but the results are usually longer lasting as well.

Compromising – this technique usually involves bargaining and searching for solutions.  The disadvantage to this approach is that quick “lose-lose” solutions are usually preferred over long term “win-win” solutions.  This happens because there is a willingness to resolve the conflict quickly and both parties are usually willing to “give up something” in order to achieve a quick resolution.

Smoothing (or “accommodating”) – this technique overlooks the root causes and emphasizes areas of agreement as a way to move beyond the conflict.  The disadvantage to this technique is that it usually does not address the areas of disagreement and so does not solve the conflict.

Withdrawing (or “avoiding” or “ignoring”) -  this technique avoids the conflict and avoids trying to solve the conflict.  Of course, since the conflict is never resolved with this technique, the conflict may actually worsen and cause more disruption in the project environment.

Forcing – this technique forces one’s viewpoint over another to resolve the conflict.  This technique usually results in a “win-lose” solution and, depending on the situation, may result in long term damage to a relationship. 

Collaborating – this technique usually involves incorporating different perspectives and insights in order to achieve a resolution that gains commitment from various stakeholders.

Which technique is best?  Which technique is worst?  Per the PMBOK®, each one has its place and use.  Generally, confrontation and collaboration result in win-win solutions.  Forcing may result in long-term damage to a relationship and withdrawing results in no solution and potential damages to the project environment.

Eddie Merla, PMI-ACP, PMP


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