Conflict Management

Posted on May 14, 2009 by

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Managing conflict is part of managing projects and people. Conflict Management is a tool of the Manage Project Team process listed in the fourth edition PMBOK®. Also see the earlier posting of Manage Project Team Process (posted May 5, 2009). Conflict Management is an important skill not only project management, but for any situation in which people have disagreements. There are six general techniques of managing a conflict—Withdrawing/Avoiding, Smoothing/Accommodating, Compromising, Forcing, Collaborating, and Confronting/Problem Solving. Here are some examples of these techniques. Katy plans to bake her family Carrot Raisin cookies, but her children start complaining, because they want Chocolate with Peanut Butter Chip cookies.

Withdrawing/Avoiding – avoiding the conflict or situation. Katy runs out of the room screaming that she can never please anyone.

Smoothing/Accommodating – emphasizing areas of agreement. Katy’s husband reminds everyone that all are in agreement that they would like a batch of cookies.

Compromising – finding a solution that brings at least some satisfaction to everyone. Katy makes Chocolate Carrot cookies rather than Carrot Raisin or Chocolate with Peanut Butter Chips.

Forcing – one’s viewpoint is pushed at others’ expense. Katy says that she is making the Carrot Raisin cookies as she planned—and there will be no further discussion!

Collaborating – incorporating multiple views. Each family member discusses exactly what they like and dislike about the two types of cookies, so that together they can create a new recipe to incorporate what is most important to everyone. Katy’s husband wants the raisins included, one child wants them soft and chewy, one child wants them shaped in balls, and Katy wants them to be relatively healthy.

Confronting/Problem Solving – treating the conflict as a problem to solve. Katy and her family try to think of some alternatives to solve the problem, including: making one batch of each kind, helping the children make a batch of the kind that they want, and making one kind today and making the other kind next week.