Negotiation and conflict resolution

Conflicts in The Project Management

Negotiation and conflict resolution

In a project, there can be conflicts in a project team, or between the project manager and outside stakeholders or other associated parties. The conflicts arise when there is any disagreement between two people or groups. It can be both constructive as well as destructive. Constructive or functional conflict can motivate the project team members to work hard and enhance their productivity. Destructive or dysfunctional conflict, on the other hand, brings negative feelings (anger, hostility, fear of failure, etc.) among the project team members, which may refrain them from giving their best. The major causes of conflict can be:

  • Differences in goals and objectives
  • Competition among people or department over limited resources
  • Absence of clarity in the distribution of responsibility and authority
  • No clear division of labour or jurisdiction
  • Disparities in people's perceptions, work styles and attitudes
  • Communication problems

To resolve conflicts in the project management, the most common way used is negotiation. It is a voluntary and non-binding process to help the parties involved in arriving at a mutually beneficial outcome. Negotiations can be performed with a written agreement, which is enforceable as a common law contract. Sometimes, they are carried out by employing a third neutral party.

Usually, there are two concerns during negotiation, and these concerns drive the choice of method for conflict resolution — concern for goal achievement and concern for relationship.

Let's discuss these techniques.

Avoiding or Withdrawing: It involves moving away from the conflict situation. In this method, either of the parties involved refuses to deal with conflict and ignores it. Withdrawing is a passive technique of resolving conflicts and often does not provide any solution. Therefore, this technique should not be adopted in the project management if the issue of concern demands immediate attention or is necessary for the project completion.

Competing or Forcing: This technique focusses on the issues of concern and works on resolving them even at the cost of relationship. It does not take relationship issues much into consideration. People feel left out, and this technique generates the feeling of ill-will or injustice being done to the concerned parties who have been literally forced to accept the solution.

Accommodating or Smoothing: This technique is also known as appeasing. In this technique, areas of agreement are focused upon, leaving the disagreement areas. This technique is beneficial in maintaining harmony and ignoring conflicting situations. However, the technique fails to provide long-term solutions and may not be beneficial for solving the crucial issues of project management. Like withdrawing, smoothing is also a delaying technique that fails to resolve issues needing immediate solutions; therefore, it is avoided.

Compromising or Yielding: Also known as bargaining, this technique focusses on bringing a certain level of satisfaction to all the parties. In this method, a conflict is resolved when both the parties arrive at a compromise and accept it as a just solution. The major disadvantage of this technique is that sometimes crucial aspects of the project may get ignored or compromised for the attainment of personal objectives.

Collaborating: In this technique, parties involved in a conflict sit together and discuss the issue to arrive at a resolution. The incorporation of various ideas and the views of all the people involved are considered. The technique proves to be failure when there are excessive number of parties, and their opinions are conflicting.

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