You are on page 1of 8

Section # 5 Conflicts

Topics Covered:
Introduction & Objectives Conflict Environment Managing Conflict Conflict Resolution Management of Conflicts Superior, Subordinate & Functional Conflicts

Introduction & Objective:


Conflict may be defined as a struggle or contest between people with opposing needs, ideas, beliefs, values, or goals. Conflict on teams is inevitable; however, the results of conflict are not predetermined. Conflict might escalate and lead to nonproductive results, or conflict can be beneficially resolved and lead to quality final products. Therefore, learning to manage conflict is integral to a highperformance team. Although very few people go looking for conflict, more often than not, conflict results because of miscommunication between people with regard to their needs, ideas, beliefs, goals, or values. Conflict management is the principle that all conflicts cannot necessarily be resolved, but learning how to manage conflicts can decrease the odds of nonproductive escalation. Conflict management involves acquiring skills related to conflict resolution, self-awareness about conflict modes, conflict communication skills, and establishing a structure for management of conflict in your environment. Conflict can be healthy if it is managed effectively. Conflict management requires a combination of analytical and human skills. Every project participant should learn to resolve project conflicts effectively. Good conflict managers work at the source of conflict. To resolve it permanently, they must address the cause of the conflict and not just the symptoms of it. They size up possible clashes before contact is actually made and then prepare their action plans to handle potential trouble. They should concentrate on building an atmosphere designed to reduce destructive conflict and deal with routine frictions and minor differences before they become unmanageable. The key to resolving conflict with a positive outcome includes looking for a win-win situation, cutting losses when necessary, formulating proactive conflict management strategies, using effective negotiation and communication, and appreciating cultural differences among project stakeholders.

Page 1 of 7

Conflict Environment in Projects:


Conflict is as inevitable in a project environment as change seems to be. When project team members interact during the course of completing their tasks and responsibilities, there is always a potential for conflict. In fact, it is virtually impossible for people with diverse background skills and norms to work together; make decisions, and try to meet project goals and objectives without conflict. Project managers must identify, analyze, and evaluate both positive and negative values of conflict and their effect on performance. They must learn how and when to stimulate conflict and how to use it to increase the performance of project team members. Conflict need not have destructive consequences. Attitudes and conflict management styles play an important role in determining whether such conflict will lead to destructive or mutually beneficial outcomes.
Breakdown in communication is the overarching, most common, and most obvious source of conflict in projects. A lack of trust, respect, effective listening skills, and perceptual differences can lead to serious communication problems. Misinterpretation of a design drawing, a misunderstood change orders delays in delivery of critical components, and failure to execute instructions are all results of some type of communication breakdown. The communication skills of project managers are often put to the test by overlapping areas of responsibility, gray lines of authority, delegation problems, complex project organizational structures, and conflicts among participants. That is why communication is too important to be fully covered by administrative procedures alone. Project managers and their teams must also develop effective communication skills (especially listening skills) to resolve project conflicts. They must learn to create an atmosphere that encourages open communication in order to deal with conflict and gain team members acceptance of and commitment to project goals. In general, all potential conflict fits one of three categories, although a particular conflict situation may be based on two or more of the categories: 1) Goal-oriented conflicts are associated with end results, performance specifications and criteria, priorities, and objectives.

Page 2 of 7

2) Administrative conflicts refer to the management structure and philosophy and are mainly based on definition of roles and reporting relationships and on responsibilities and authority for tasks, functions, and decisions. 3) Interpersonal conflicts result from differences in work ethics, styles, egos, and personalities of the participants.

View Points of Conflict:


Over the years three distinct views have evolved about conflict in projects and organizations, the traditional view of conflict, The behavioral view or Contemporary View This traditional view of conflict is still widely held because industrial and business institutions that have a strong influence on our society concur with it. This negative view of conflict played a role in the development of labor unions. Violent or disruptive confrontations between workers and management led people to conclude that conflict was always detrimental and should therefore be avoided. The Behavioral View or Contemporary View argues that conflict is natural and inevitable in all organizations and that it may have either a positive or a negative effect, depending on how the conflict is handled. Performance may increase with conflict, but only up to a certain level, and then decline if conflict is allowed to increase further or is left unresolved. This approach advocates acceptance of conflict and rationalizes its existence. Because of the potential benefits from conflict, project managers should focus on managing it effectively rather than suppressing or eliminating it. The newest perspective, the interactionist view assumes that conflict is necessary to increase performance. While the behavioral approach accepts conflict, the interactionist view encourages conflict based on the belief that a harmonious, peaceful, tranquil, too-cooperative project organization is likely to become static, apathetic, stagnant, and unable to respond to change and innovation. This approach encourages managers to maintain an appropriate level of conflictenough to keep projects self-critical, viable, creative, and innovative.
A COMPARISON OF CONFLICT VIEWS: Traditional View Contemporary View
Main Points
Caused by troublemakers Bad Should be avoided

Interactionist View
Results from commitment to goals

should

be

Inevitable between humans Not always

Page 3 of 7

suppressed

bad Natural result of change Can be managed Performance mainly depends on how effectively the conflict is handled. Generally performance increases to a certain level as conflict level increases, then declines if conflict is allowed to increase further or left unresolved Do nothing if a = d Resolve conflict if a > d (Where d ~ 0)

Effect on Performance

Performance declines as the level of conflict increases

Often beneficial Should be stimulated Should aim to foster creativity Certain level of conflict is necessary to increase performance. Performance increases with conflict up to a certain level, then declines if conflict increases further or remains unresolved

Recommended Actions

Do nothing if a = d Resolve conflict if a> d Stimulate conflict if a <d (Where d> 0) Note: a-actual level of conflict among team members; d- desired level of conflict that team members are comfortable with.

Do nothing if a = d Resolve conflict if a >d (Where d = 0)

Managing Conflict in Projects:


Because of the significant impact that conflict can have on project success, managing it well is one of the most important skills a project manager must possess. An American Management Association study of middle- and top-level executives revealed that the average manager spends approximately 20 percent of his or her time dealing with conflict. The importance of conflict management is also reinforced by a research study of managers that analyzed twenty-five skills and personality factors to determine which, if any were related to managerial success. Of the twenty-five factors, the ability to handle conflict was most positively related to managerial success. PROJECT CONFLICTS AND RECOMMENDED SOLUTIONS: Sources of Conflict
Conflict over project priorities

Definitions
Views of project participants differ over sequence of activities and tasks. Includes goals incompatibility and differences in long-term versus short-term perspectives. Conflicts over managerial and

Suggested Solutions
Develop a master plan compatible With long-term strategies.

Conflict over

Clarify roles,

Page 4 of 7

administration Procedures Conflict over technical opinions and performance tradeoffs Conflict over human resources

administrative issues of how the project will be organized and managed. Disagreements over technical issues, performance specifications, and technical trade-offs. Conflicts concerning staffing and allocation of project personnel and where to get them and how. Conflict over cost estimates from support areas regarding work breakdown structures and estimating techniques. Disagreements about the timing, sequencing, and scheduling of project related tasks and information system to prepare and monitor project schedules. Disagreements on interpersonal issues.

responsibilities, and reporting relationships at the beginning of the project. Use peer review and steering committees to review specifications and design. Develop a work breakdown structure and a corresponding responsibility matrix. Develop overall budgets supported by detailed budget and cost estimates of subproject tasks and activities Continued Develop an overall schedule that integrates schedules for subprojects with staffing and other life constraints. Emphasize team building and create an environment that emphasizes respect, diversity, and equality.

Conflict over cost and budget

Conflict over schedules

Personality conflict

Project managers must not only be aware of various interpersonal conflict resolution modes and their strengths and weaknesses in order to choose an appropriate approach but must also manage conflict using some practical guidelines that involve preparing for the conflict, facing it, and then resolving it by developing win-win strategies. They must also recognize that it is sometimes good to stimulate conflict in order to encourage self-evaluation, creativity and innovation.

Conflict Resolution or Dispute Resolution:


Conflict resolution is conceptualized as the methods and processes involved in facilitating the peaceful ending of some social conflict. Often, committed group members attempt to resolve group conflicts by actively communicating information about their conflicting motives or ideologies to the rest of the group (e.g., intentions; reasons for holding certain beliefs), and by engaging in collective negotiation. Ultimately, a wide range of methods and procedures for addressing

Page 5 of 7

conflict exist, including but not limited to, negotiation, mediation, diplomacy, and creative peace building. It may be important to note that the term conflict resolution may also be used interchangeably with dispute resolution, where arbitration and litigation processes are critically involved. Furthermore, the concept of conflict resolution can be thought to encompass the use of nonviolent resistance measures by conflicted parties in an attempt to promote effective resolution.

Dual concern model of conflict resolution


The dual concern model of conflict resolution is a conceptual perspective that assumes individuals preferred method of dealing with conflict is based on two underlying themes or dimensions: A concern for self (i.e., assertiveness), and A concern for others (i.e., empathy). According to the model, group members balance their concern for satisfying personal needs and interests with their concern for satisfying the needs and interests of others in different ways. The intersection point between these two dimensions ultimately lead individuals towards exhibiting different styles of conflict resolution (Goldfien & Robbennolt, 2007). The dual model identifies four conflict resolution styles/strategies that individuals may use depending on their dispositions toward pro-self or pro-social goals. Conflict resolution uses the following major styles as under: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Avoidance Conflict style. Yielding Conflict Style. Competitive Conflict Style. Cooperation Conflict Style. Conciliation Conflict Style.

1. Avoidance conflict style:


Characterized by inaction and passivity, avoidance conflict style is typically used when an individual has reduced concern for their own outcomes as well as the outcomes of others. During conflict, these avoiders adopt a wait and see attitude, often allowing conflict to phase out on its own without any personal involvement (Bayazit & Mannix, 2003). Unfortunately, by neglecting to address high-conflict situations, avoiders risk allowing problems to fester out of control.

Page 6 of 7

2. Yielding conflict style:


In contrast, yielding or accommodating conflict styles are characterized by a high concern for others while having a low concern for ones own self. This passive pro-social approach emerges when individuals derive personal satisfaction from meeting the needs of others and have a general concern for maintaining stable, positive social relationships. When faced with conflict, individuals with a yielding conflict style tend to give into others demands out of respect for the social relationship (e.g., to maintain group unity) because they believe being agreeable may be more important than winning (Goldfien & Robbennolt, 2007).

3. Competitive conflict style:


Competitive or fighting conflict style maximizes individual assertiveness (i.e., concern for self) and minimizes empathy (i.e., concern for others). Groups consisting of competitive members generally enjoy seeking domination over others, and typically see conflict as a win or lose predicament. Fighters tend to force others to accept their personal views by employing competitive, power tactics (e.g., argue; insult; accuse; violence) that foster feelings of intimidation (Morrill, 1995).

4. Cooperation conflict style:


Characterized by an active concern for both pro-social and pro-self behavior, cooperation conflict style is typically used when an individual has elevated interests in their own outcomes as well as in the outcomes of others. During conflict, cooperators collaborate with others in an effort to find an amicable solution that satisfies all parties involved in the conflict. Individuals with this type of conflict style tend to be highly assertive and high empathetic at the same time. By seeing conflict as a creative opportunity, collaborators willingly invest time and resources into finding a win-win solution. According to the literature on conflict resolution, a cooperative conflict resolution style is recommended above all others (Sternberg & Dobson, 1987; Jarboe & Witteman, 1996).

5. Conciliation conflict style:


Conciliation or compromising conflict style is typical of individuals who possess an intermediate-level of concern for both personal and
Page 7 of 7

others outcomes. Compromisers value fairness and, in doing so, anticipate mutual give-and-take interactions. By accepting some demands put forth by others, compromisers believe this agreeableness will encourage others to meet half-way, thus promoting conflict resolution (van de Vliert & Euwema, 1994). This conflict style can be considered an extension of both yielding and cooperative strategies.

Management of Conflicts Functional Conflicts:

Superior,

Subordinate,

Page 8 of 7