Conflicts in Projects

Auhtor – Nosheen Awan


Conflict is a state of tension in which something not in accord. It is an incompatibility of ideas, interests and values between two or more persons in a relationship, with antagonistic feelings for each other.   

Occurrence of Conflicts in Projects

Conflict is an inevitable fact of human existence. It occurs between people in all kinds of human relationships and in all social settings. As we know, project driven organizations are the major source of conflicts because there is a concentration of professionals of different disciplines for a limited time and these people may be having divergent interests.

Why conflicts occur or arise in projects? Following reasons can be sources of conflicts occurrence in various projects.

1.Personality conflicts can occur because people have different status styles beliefs and values. People have different thinking styles, which encourage them to disagree, leading to conflict situations. They see things differently because of differences in understanding and viewpoint.

2.Potential Sources of Conflict: Resources schedules cost objective and technical conflicts are major sources of conflicts. Lack of manpower resources and unequal distribution of resources by resource manager. Scheduling is top ranking source of conflict occurrence. Scheduling is probably one of the toughest obligations of most project managers. Poor cost & efforts estimates and technical opinions may cause conflicts.

3.Poor interpersonal skills can be source of conflicts. Project managers who lack good interpersonal skills or people skills are inefficient in dealing with the organization and issues within. Such incompetence may cause the relationships of managers with their people to be weak and resentful. If this is the situation, conflicts are more likely to generate.

4.Ambiguous jurisdiction which occur when two individuals have responsibilities which are interdependent but whose work boundaries and role definitions are not clearly specified.
5.Communication barriers as difficulties in communicating can cause misunderstanding, which can then create conflict situations.

6.Unresolved prior conflicts which remain unsettled over time create anxiety and stress.

Conflicts Management

A good project manager knows that conflicts are inevitable. The primary responsibility of managing conflicts in a project lies with the project manager. Conflicts can manage and resolve through different procedures and techniques. When conflicts occur, a project manager should perform following steps,
1. Identification of conflict as the problem

2.Identification of symptoms of the problem and classification of them as interpersonal, task, or process-based conflict

3.Setting strategy selection criteria

4.Identification of alternative conflict handling intention strategies for each symptom based on domain classification

a.Avoiding (Neglecting, Withdrawing): not paying attention to the conflict and not taking any action to resolve it.

b.Competing (Asserting, Distributive, Dominating, Forcing): using formal authority or other power that you possess to satisfy your concerns without regard to the concerns of the party that you are in conflict with.
c.Accommodating (Appeasing, Obliging): allowing the others to satisfy their concerns while neglecting your own.

d.Compromise (Sharing): attempting to resolve a conflict by identifying a solution that is partially satisfactory to both parties, but completely satisfactory to neither.

e.Collaboration (Integration, Problem-Solving): cooperating with the other party to understand their concerns and expressing your own concerns in an effort to find a mutually and completely satisfactory solution

5.Selection of conflict handling intention strategies for each symptom identified, many of which may need to be employed concurrently

6.Implementation of selected conflict handling intention strategies, concurrently if necessary.

Impacts of Conflicts

The impacts of conflict can be positive or negative because conflict by itself is neither good nor bad. However the manner in which conflict is handled and managed determines whether it is constructive or destructive. Following are some impacts of conflicts on projects,

Positive Impacts of Conflicts

1.Provides clarity to important issues or problem

2.Causes authentic communication

3.Builds cooperation and team cohesion

4.Provides individuals with understanding

5.Diffusion of more serious conflicts

Negative Impacts of Conflicts

1.Polarizes people or groups

2.Undermines morale

3.Leads to irresponsible behavior such as gossip

4.Deflects attention from more important tasks

5.Diminishing output

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