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Resolve Conflicts


Jim Crear suggests without good chemistry, a project team can experience conflict, which can lead to errors, missed deadlines, or even project failure. Project team leaders can minimize the likelihood of such challenges by learning to recognize the early signs of conflict, and acting quickly to resolve the problem.


Conflict and disagreement are not the same. Conflict is marked by anger and frustration, while disagreement is conducive to honest discussion and healthy debate. Don't be afraid of disagreement - it can help a team hammer out differences and achieve superior results. But when conflict does arise, don't run away from it. Confront it head-on. Listen to all sides of the story and seek everyone's input on how to resolve the problem constructively.


1. Be aware. Pay close attention to how team members interact. Watch for telltale signs of a brewing conflict: glaring stares, crossed arms, clenched fists, sarcasm, mean-spirited jokes, unusual silences. Be ready to intervene immediately.

2. Be prepared. Arrange for early team training in conflict management. Not everyone has been taught how to deal with difficult people and resolve disputes, but you don't need HR or a large budget to prepare your team.

3. Be open. Toss the problem onto the middle of the table. This proven technique works when the team leader openly and without bias invites the participating members to contribute to a compromise - which becomes the solution. Don't pitch the solution - pitch the problem. You will be startled by the results.

4. Be fair. Lay down the ground rules. You can't avoid team politics, but you can take steps to defuse its power. Make it clear that every team member's opinion is important. Discussion must focus on facts, not personalities. Emphasize that there is no debate to be won - just a problem to be solved. Make sure everyone is heard!

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About the Contributor:

Attributed Author

Jim Crear

Jim is the chief information officer and architect for The Standish Group International. He is an experienced executive with over 40 years of experience in the field of Information Technology. He has had a diverse career leading IT organizations in academia, biomedical, manufacturing, and software companies.
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