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RYERSON UNIVERSITY LEARNING SUPPORT SERVICES

Strategies for Resolving Conflicts in Group Projects Conflict during work on group projects can have several causes. Some conflicts result from differences in opinion on what constitutes good work (e.g., “We should include this information and not that.”). Other conflicts result because of difficulties with the process, as, for example, when a member fails to complete work on time (or even fails to do the work at all). Don’t be afraid of conflict—it is normal, even healthy, and can, if handled properly, result in a better final product. The important thing in resolving conflict is to keep the focus on the task, not on personalities. Your group must assume collective responsibility for solving any problems, so discard the notion that one member must win. The group wins if you all work together to negotiate disputes and get on with the work. Try the following strategies. 1. Clarify the problem. Share your ideas on what you each think the problem is and then work as a group to develop a statement of the problem that everyone accepts. For example, the problem could be that one member never contributes to group discussions or that a member did not meet the deadline for a task. Don’t lay blame or be accusatory. Simply define the problem in neutral, objective language. 2. Determine the cause of the problem. If a member doesn’t contribute to discussions, it could be that he or she is shy. If someone doesn’t meet a deadline, perhaps he or she had a family crisis or was ill (or perhaps can’t set priorities and manage time effectively). 3. Generate solutions to the problem without, at this point, criticizing or evaluating any of them. Come up with as many solutions as you can. 4. Evaluate each of the solutions in terms of how logical it is and how it will help you complete the project. Think in terms of “What would happen if . . .?” For example, think of what would happen if the group encouraged a quiet person to contribute to discussions —the project would benefit from that person’s ideas. If someone has failed to meet a deadline because of illness or some other legitimate reason, what would happen if the group helped out by taking on some of the work? The rest of you would have to work harder, but the project would get back on track. If someone is slacking and your code of conduct has a “kick out clause,” what would happen if you implemented that clause? The rest of you would have even more work, but, again, you’d be able to get on with the project. 5. Pick a solution based on your evaluation of what is best for the group and the project and on your willingness to live with the consequences. For instance, if the solution means more work, you all must be willing to accept that. If the solution fails miserably, and there is still time, brainstorm again and try another solution.