- Confronting/Problem Solving
Conflict Resolution Techniques
- A conflict resolution technique that involves solving the root cause of the conflict so that the conflict is permanently resolved
- It leads to a win-win situation
- Usually the “best” conflict resolution technique
- A conflict resolution technique that emphasizes agreements rather than differences
- It does not solve the problem, but merely brushes it under the carpet
- Involves finding a “common ground” that brings some degree of satisfaction to all the parties involved in the conflict
- Results in a lose-lose situation
- A conflict resolution technique that involves incorporating multiple viewpoints in order to come to a consensus
- A conflict resolution technique that pushes one particular viewpoint at the expense of others
- It generates a win-lose situation
- A conflict resolution technique that involves retreating away from or avoiding a conflict
- It does not solve the problem, and just “postpones” it
- It usually isn’t the best technique for conflict resolution
Best Conflict Resolution Technique
Different books and resources “prescribe” (so to speak) the best and worst conflict resolution techniques, and rank them too. Generally speaking, Confronting (or Problem Solving) is considered the best approach because it results in a win-win situation. Forcing and Withdrawing (or Avoiding) are seen as least favorables.
However, based upon the situation, nature of the conflict and people involved, any of the above conflict resolution techniques can be justified.
There's no single-best or one-size-fits-all conflict resolution technique for all situations.
Even the PMBOK® Guide, 5th Edition, subtly acknowledges this point. Before describing the conflict resolution techniques, the Guide says “.. as each one has its place and use, they are not given in any particular order”.
Since a good example is the best sermon one can give, let’s consider an example.
Assume that your project is towards its completion and going through a very critical phase, when a conflict arises between 2 team members. This conflict is putting the key project objectives at risk. You don’t have time to confront the problem and let the involved team members solve the problem themselves through discussions or other means. You do have the option to overrule either one or both the team members and direct them to follow a particular approach. So, what do you do as a project manager?
In such a situation, forcing may actually be your best option.
In conclusion, if you see a question on the PMP exam that asks you to select the best conflict resolution technique for a given situation, don’t just blindly follow what the book says. Assess the situation and apply the most suitable technique. Do spend the time to understand each technique in detail and when it should be used. If you are PMI member, I’ll suggest you to utilize the free resources on ProjectManagement.com. You can also refer to the following guide for more in-depth understanding.
- Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling, 12th Ed by Dr. Harold Kerzner
Image credit: Flickr / neys