A project manager is the person who ensures everything gets done. Unlike other managers, the protect managers cannot divorce his or herself from the project and demand the end result is successful. He or she must be the one who decides how it will be done and push subordinates to finish their work. Part of this responsibility is the manager’s role in resolving conflict between team members. Whether dealing with personal conflicts or professional disagreements relating to a project, the project manager must eventually step in to resolve the differences for the job to continue and be completed successfully.
Although employees would like to assume the work environment is for professional interaction only, personal conflicts do arise. Whether looking at a simple disagreement of opinions or genuine distaste for each other, these conflicts can be rather disruptive. Consequently, project managers should seek out these conflicts and confront members by privately discussing the conflict, not necessarily the personal issues. Depending upon the severity of the conflict, team members may simply need a “cool down” period apart from each other; for long standing quarrels, managers may want to force the members together until they resolve their issues.
In professional conflicts, however, the manager needs to directly address the issue at hand. Over procedural disagreements or differing opinions of expertise, the manager may have to act as a tiebreaker. Where the manager may be somewhat lacking in a specific area of expertise, an outside opinion can be used, specifically other employees or superiors. Where one subordinate is more knowledgeable or experienced, yet a validate concern against the expert’s view is raised, managers should take the time to ensure the lesser expert’s objection is properly addressed.
It can be rather easy for management to show bias toward certain employees. Those with greater expertise in a subject, more experience, a longer history of working with the manager, or superior communication skills can often crowd out valid concerns of other team members. Not only can this undermine the project, it might also build resentment among team members. As such, a project manager must recognize his or her bias before addressing any conflict while long terms conflicts can fester unless management takes steps to evaluate differences of opinion.
When it comes to conflict resolution, project managers must build their teams and team members by ensuring everyone in the team is heard. Team managers need to connect with each subordinate by pursuing the views and opinions of every team member as well as facilitating communication between all coworkers. Building professional relationships can be challenging and it takes time, yet it is not possible when conflict goes unresolved. Consequently, the most important tip for a project manager is to seek out conflicts when they arise and deal with them as soon as possible.