Managing conflicts is a critical skill for a Project Management Professional (PMP). It is highlighted under the resource management knowledge area and the executing process group of the PMP examination content outline. Conflicts can arise due to many reasons like miscommunication, resource allocation, scheduling, personal disputes, etc within a project setting and can cause a lot of project delays if not addressed properly. Proper conflict management can resolve issues smoothly, ensure a positive working environment, meet project schedule, and exceed stakeholder expectations.

Table of Contents

Steps for managing conflict

When managing conflict, here are primary steps a PMP should ideally take:

  1. Identify the Source of the Conflict: The first step involves understanding the cause and effects of the conflict. PMPs must evaluate where the conflict exists, what has led to the disagreement, and who are the parties involved.
  2. Analyze the Conflict: Analysis involves understanding the impact of conflict on the project. Also, assess the position of the parties involved & what the possible outcomes could be.
  3. Approach Solution: Based on the analysis, decide on the appropriate conflict resolution strategy among several techniques that range from avoidance to collaboration.
  4. Implement Resolution Strategy: Seek alignment from involved parties on the selected resolution strategy and apply it.
  5. Follow Up, Evaluate, and Adjust: A PMP should track the progress and efficiency of the solution, refining the strategy as needed.

Take a simple example; suppose there’s a conflict regarding resource distribution in a project. The marketing team and the programming team both want more people. As a PMP, you would hear both sides’ perspectives (Identifying), assess the required workload and manpower for both teams (Analyze), devise a solution beneficial to both (Approach Solution), implement this solution (Implement strategy), and finally, ensure the issue has been indeed resolved (Follow Up).

Conflict Resolution Techniques in PMBOK Guide

The PMBOK Guide refers to different conflict resolution techniques, such as:

Conflict Resolution Techniques Description
Withdrawing/Avoiding Postponing or ignoring the issue
Smoothing/Accommodating Emphasizing areas of agreement rather than differences
Compromising Each party making concessions for an acceptable solution
Forcing/Directing Imposing a decision, more like a dictatorial approach
Collaborating/Problem Solving Incorporating different viewpoints and insights from parties for consensus decision making

For instance, ‘forcing’ may be effective when quick decision making is required but may result in resentment from the party that didn’t ‘win’. Likewise, ‘compromising’ may work as a short-term solution but may not fully satisfy either party. The decision regarding which resolution technique to use will depend on the situation at hand and the project manager’s judgement.

In conclusion

Conflict management requires a balance of good communication skills, understanding of human behavior, and effective management techniques. A competent PMP not only becomes an effective facilitator in conflict resolution but also anticipates potential conflicts and works proactively to prevent them from escalating, ensuring a smooth project execution.

Practice Test

Conflict is always detrimental to a project and should be properly eradicated.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: While conflict can be harmful, it can also bring to light unseen problems and spark innovative solutions depending on how it’s managed.

Collaborating is the most appropriate conflict management technique in every situation.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: Collaboration may not always be the best method. The most suitable technique depends on the situation and various factors like the urgency, the relationship between the conflicting parties, etc.

Compromising is a conflict resolution technique that looks for solutions that bring some degree of satisfaction to all parties.

  • True
  • False

Answer: True

Explanation: In a compromise, each party gives something up to reach an agreement. This method is usually used when parties have equal power or a quick solution is needed.

Which of the following are conflict resolution techniques? (Multiple Select)

  • Avoiding
  • Forcing
  • Collaborating
  • Ignoring

Answer: Avoiding, Forcing, Collaborating

Explanation: Ignoring is not a proper conflict resolution technique. It can temporarily veer away from the direct conflict but typically lets the conflict linger unresolved.

The project manager should always solve team conflicts themselves, without involving the team.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: It’s vital for the project manager to foster a healthy communication environment where team members are encouraged to resolve their conflicts independently before escalating them to the manager.

Forcing as a conflict resolution technique implies using your formal authority to resolve the conflict.

  • True
  • False

Answer: True

Explanation: The forcing technique indeed means employing your positional power to resolve the conflict.

Which of the following factors might increase the potential for conflict? (Multiple Select)

  • Schedule Pressures
  • Personality Differences
  • Lack of Resources
  • High Cohesion

Answer: Schedule Pressures, Personality Differences, Lack of Resources

Explanation: Schedule pressures, personality differences, and resource deficiencies can all lead to disputes. High team cohesion, on the other hand, often lessens the possibility for conflict.

Conflict can lead to project improvements.

  • True
  • False

Answer: True

Explanation: Conflicts can illuminate hidden issues and inspire innovative solutions, which can ultimately result in project advancement.

Team conflicts should be addressed as early as possible.

  • True
  • False

Answer: True

Explanation: Proactively addressing conflicts can often prevent them from escalating and causing project disruptions.

Avoidance is a constructive conflict management strategy.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: Avoidance is considered a passive conflict resolution strategy. It might provide temporary relief, but it typically doesn’t resolve the underlying conflict.

In which process group does the project manager manage and control conflicts?

  • Planning
  • Monitoring and Controlling
  • Executing
  • Closing

Answer: Monitoring and Controlling

Explanation: The Monitoring and Controlling process group in project management includes overseeing and managing conflicts throughout the project life cycle.

Compromising as a conflict resolution technique involves finding a mutually acceptable solution that fully satisfies the concerns of both parties.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: This statement more accurately describes the collaboration technique. Compromising involves each party giving something up.

Which of the following is NOT shown in a conflict resolution process?

  • Identify the issue
  • Understand everyone’s interests
  • Propose arbitrary solutions
  • Search for solutions

Answer: Propose arbitrary solutions

Explanation: In an effective conflict resolution process, solutions should not be arbitrary but rather should be based upon a comprehensive understanding of the issue and everyone’s concerns.

Conflict is an indication of an inefficient project team.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: Conflict isn’t necessarily a sign of an inefficient team. Instead, it is how conflict is managed that can indicate how effective a team is.

Conflicts can never be beneficial to the project.

  • True
  • False

Answer: False

Explanation: While conflicts can derail a project if left unmanaged, they can also foster creativity, encourage critical thinking, and lead to improvements if handled correctly.

Interview Questions

1. What is conflict in the context of project management?

Conflict refers to disagreements or disputes that arise between individuals or groups in a project setting.

2. Why is it important to manage conflict in a project management context?

Managing conflict is important because unresolved conflicts can negatively impact project outcomes, team morale, and overall project success.

3. What are some common sources of conflict in project management?

Common sources of conflict in project management include differences in goals or values, communication breakdowns, resource constraints, and personality clashes.

4. What are some strategies for managing conflict in project management?

Strategies for managing conflict in project management include active listening, fostering open communication, finding common ground, and seeking win-win solutions.

5. How can a project manager effectively address conflicts within a project team?

A project manager can effectively address conflicts within a project team by proactively addressing issues, promoting a collaborative team environment, and facilitating constructive discussions to find resolution.

6. What are the potential consequences of unresolved conflicts in a project?

The potential consequences of unresolved conflicts in a project include decreased team morale, project delays, decreased productivity, and an overall negative impact on project outcomes.

7. How can a project manager prevent conflicts from escalating within a project team?

A project manager can prevent conflicts from escalating within a project team by establishing clear communication channels, setting expectations for behavior and conflict resolution, and addressing issues promptly.

8. What role does emotional intelligence play in managing conflict in project management?

Emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in managing conflict in project management by enabling project managers to understand and regulate their own emotions, empathize with others, and effectively
navigate interpersonal interactions.

9. How can project managers encourage constructive conflict within a project team?

Project managers can encourage constructive conflict within a project team by promoting a culture of open communication, valuing diverse perspectives, and providing a safe space for team members to express their

10. What are some best practices for resolving conflicts in a project management context?

Best practices for resolving conflicts in a project management context include addressing issues promptly, focusing on interests rather than positions, exploring multiple solutions, and seeking feedback from team

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