How to Resolve Conflict

Conflict is part of any project, and it’s crucial to prepare for it and have tools and strategies at your disposal to handle the inevitable. That’s the people part of project management. This video offers workable ideas to resolve conflict when it arises.

In Review: How to Resolve Conflict

Jennifer Bridges addressed the real-life problems that crop up in your project teams with real-life resources. Conflict is inevitable, and some might even welcome a healthy dose of it in order vet ideas, get proper estimates or even establish project priorities with the whole team.

According to PMI’s Pulse of the Profession, 2015, only 64% of all projects meet their established goals and are considered “successful” by their leaders. Don’t let team conflicts add to that already staggering figure.

Here are some of the lessons learned from Jennifer’s personal experience leading all kinds of projects:

  • Things get worse before they get better
  • Are you listening to people who just want to be heard?
  • Keep calm, cool and collected
  • Great minds don’t always think alike, especially among different departments or teams

You have to identify conflict first before you can resolve it, but experience shows that differing opinions are not impossible to deal with if you have the right tools at your disposal.

Pro-Tip: You don’t want to pretend conflict won’t ever exist, lest team members try to hide their conflicts from you. Openly share your personal experiences with conflict with your team and invite an open discussion about how the team and spot and resolve conflict as a unit.

Thanks for watching!


Hello, I’m Jennifer Bridges (formerly Whitt), Director of Welcome to our whiteboard session today on tips for resolving team conflict. If the statistic is true, and I think it is, that over 80 percent of projects fail, then that indicates that a lot of teams are in conflict.

Failing projects tend to bring out the worst in everyone. Sensitivities are high and emotions are high. What I want to share with you today are some tips that I’ve learned on some of my failing projects.

Number one, I want to pick apart the sentence here. If you Google what conflict means, conflict means a serious disagreement. Resolving means a cause to disperse or heal, either a symptom or condition, or to settle or find a solution to a problem or dispute.

A lot of times I hear terms thrown around, especially when it comes to resolving team conflict. Now we know what this means. Over the years, many organizations that I’ve worked with on failing projects, is going in and looking at team conflict. In truth, some of the team conflict actually causes the teams or the projects to fail.

There were a couple of aha moments and some tips that I thought were pretty interesting that I wanted to share.

The number one aha moment was, things have to get worse before they get better. Maybe they don’t have to, but it surely does help to fuel. Sometimes as a project manager, you need to know when to manage or disperse the conflict and more importantly, knowing when to fuel it.

What do I mean by that? Sometimes we have to fuel it to get to the real issue. When there’s conflict or people arguing or there’s a disagreement over something, people are usually in conflict, it looks like at the surface one thing but you have to get down to the root cause.

The way to do that is to fuel it and actually let it play out. Sometimes you have to get the main players to argue their points. If you keep going layer to layer to layer, you get down to the real issue. It may not be that marketing doesn’t get along with IT or certain people. You get down to the core issue of maybe there’s a fear or maybe someone’s not telling the truth about something being done.

You must get down to the real issue. Once you get down to the real issue, then you can begin solving for that instead of looking at the people side of things.

The second aha moment was, what about me. A lot of times, when you have people in conflict on your team, people just want to be heard. Maybe someone is presenting their approach or solution to a problem and maybe there’s another team member or other team members feel like they’re not being heard.

They may not be heard by you, the project manager, or someone else that they feel like it’s important. So, the tip is to listen to and acknowledge either, both sides who are in conflict, either both or all sides. There may be multiple people in conflict.

It’s listening to and acknowledging the position. Once you understand everyone feels like they’ve been heard, and you have all the facts on the table, then you can look to see what the best approach is or what the best solution is to that problem.

The next aha moment is, I’ve never been that way before. I remember going to a trip with one of my teams. We were going out of town and there were multiple people driving. We were in a caravan. It’s a trip that we’ve all made hundreds of times.

One time we had a new leader of the pack. The leader went the way that they knew and there was another team member driving and we had to stop and the person had never been that way before. So, they actually got the team derailed.

The person was insistent upon going a different way. If you, as a project manager, show that different paths can lead to the same destination, if everyone had kept calm, cool and collected, we could have saved hours of circling around a mountain, trying to get to our retreat location for the project team.

You, as a project manager, being able to show people, it’s like a GPS. If you show people there are different ways to get to the same destination.

The last aha moment is, great minds don’t necessarily think alike. What I mean by that is, consider people’s thinking styles. Many times I’ve been on projects where, because of people’s thinking styles, they think about things in a different way.

One I can recall, it really helped me to understand more is with my team, we always would do strategy sessions, brainstorming sessions. Cathy, on the team, was more of an analytical person. It’s true when they say it’s difficult to create and destroy at the same time.

During the brainstorming innovative/creative session, Cathy, the more analytical one, the one who thinks more about risk, was trying to destroy what we were trying to create. It didn’t work out that well. It caused team conflict, dissension and hours upon hours upon hours of trying to create new ideas for new solutions.

The idea is, understand that great minds are still great minds but they don’t necessarily think alike. It’s important to know when to interject those thinking styles. What we learned with Cathy is, we didn’t include her in the innovative/creative parts of the project. Not that we didn’t like her or she wasn’t bringing value, but number one, it frustrated her, it frustrated the team.

We did the creative part and once we needed the analytical part, we brought her in. She was perfect to break down those ideas, to show us what it would take to get that done and show us the risks that we may be overlooking.

I feel like these are some important tips. Of course, it’s always great to research other team conflict methodologies. So there are methodologies in place once you know the real issues. I think it’s more about these tips, about what really happens getting down to the core issue. When you’re looking to resolve the team conflict on your project, we hope you’ll consider these.

When we built, we incorporated a lot of these principles into the tips, tools and techniques into our software. If you need help managing your projects – and staying ahead of conflicts – give us a try.


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