Conflict Management in project implementation
Conflict means friction, discord, dissent, collusion or contention. It results from clash of values, interests, actions or directions. A conflict is more than a mere disagreement. It could be actual or perceived.
In traditional view, a conflict is bad, caused by trouble makers and must be avoided or suppressed. But in contemporary view, it is normal and inevitable, often beneficial and natural result of the change. It should be managed rather than suppressed.
What is an organizational conflict?
Organizational Conflict is the ‘discord’ that arises when goals, interests or values of different individuals or groups are incompatible and those people block or thwart each other’s efforts to achieve their objectives. Moreover, it is inevitable given the wide range of goals for the different stakeholder in the organization. In project implementation, a simple disagreement may arise (i) between team-members, or (ii) between functional managers and line managers. If unresolved, it may escalate into verbal assaults and resentment.
If there are no conflicts, it shows that the management emphasizes on uniformity or conformity which may discourage new ideas or innovations. For organizational performance, Conflict is good if not excessive.
SOURCES OF CONFLICTS
Organizational conflict stems from a variety of sources. There different groups working for the same project. They may be functional managers or line managers. They may be teams A, B & C. They have different goal and focus. They are interdependent and if there is lack of coordination, conflict would arise. Their authority may overlap. Two or manager managers may claim authority for the same task leading to a conflicting situation.
Similarly lack of transparency in reward system may be a cause of heart-burning and subsequent conflicts. One person or one group may be rewarded for achieving goal while another is not rewaarded for no apparent reasons.
Above all, scarce resources may cause conflict. These resources include finance, equipment and facilities. Initially, the conflict starts over the allocation. Everyone does not get what one aspires for. Subsequently, there may be a stress from working with inadequate resources.
TYPES OF CONFLICTS
There are a number of types of conflicts such as (i) interdependence conflict, (ii) management styles conflict, (iii) background conflict (white collar v. blue collar, professional v. non-professional, male v. female and (iv) personality conflicts.
A manger should be able to distinguish functional conflict from dysfunctional conflict. In functional conflict, the employees may disagree or discuss how best to do a certain task. But this is constructive as it may lead to an ingenious way to complete the same task. Such conflicts may (i) bring up better results, (ii) oblige individuals to think of a plausible solution.
But, on the other hand, dysfunctional conflicts are destructive as (i) no one tries to find a solution but advance it own arguments, (ii) seniors do not take interest but assume that a solution would come by itself. Such a conflict hamper smooth progress and productivity, causes more and continued conflict, lower morale of workers and supervisers and results in inappropriate behaviors.
There are a few strategies that can be used to resolve a conflict. Resolve does not necessarily solve a problem but it means sort of settlement for the time being. When a manager is pressed for time, he or she should resolve the problem a way that project does not suffer. However, to avoid a flare up and backlash, the manager may just settle the conflict and leave the solution at a later stage.
The important factors are:
- Issue importance– what the issue under conflict or litigation, is it important, are principles or values involved in the conflict.
- Relationship Importance – how important is it that cordial relations be maintain with the other party.
- Relative power – how much power or leverages you have to use in a certain situation.
After considering the importance, the manager may adopt any of the following strategies:
The manager may not pay any attention to the conflict and let the other party satisfy its concern. Avoiding is beneficial if the manager is busy with other important job or if the issue is not important or the other party is un-important.
The conflict may resolve naturally with the passage of time or the other party may realize it high-headedness and seek forgiveness at a later stage.
This approach is viewed as postponing an issue for later or withdrawing from the situation altogether. It is regarded as a temporary solution because the problem and conflict continue to reoccur over and over again.
In a small or unimportant conflict, it is best to accept the view of the other party. In this case, the areas of agreement are emphasized and the areas of disagreement are downplayed. One of the parties may sacrifice its own concerns. This may be a trade-off at a later time and is good if the consequences are small, stakes are low and continued harmonious relationship are desired.
Because of time constraint or discipline issues, the manager may be used the necessary authority to settle the matter without regard to the concerns of the other party. This would discourage unnecessary or baseless conflicts.
This situation calls for give and take. When the issue is moderate, comprising is the best solution. In other words, it looks for a solution which is acceptable to both parties to avoid a deadlock or for the sake of continued good relations. In this situation, the manager cooperates with the other party to understand their concerns and expressing his or own own concerns in an effort to find a mutually and completely satisfactory solution. This is a classic example of win-win situation.
But a much better way is to solve the conflict especially when the conflict is over an important issue. Necessary guidance may be obtained from the official manual and agreements, the matter may be studied threadbare and a solution found which is justified.