Conflict Management

What do you think? Is conflict a good or bad thing?

It’s not such an easy question to answer:

  • Good -  Indeed conflict could be beneficial.  It can help you understand where you differ and how this could be resolved. Often a conflict happens when there is a difference in objectives, understanding of such objectives, that is why it is good to know if this is the case and sort it out.
  • Bad - We are not talking fighting here, but if the conflict isn’t addressed and resolved it can be a bad thing if it delays work or threatens the project.


“Conflict can be defined as different objectives and attitudes between two or more parties. Conflict management is the process of identifying and addressing differences that, if left unresolved, could affect objectives” – PMBOX Sixth Edition.

Project Communication Plan

A Project Communication Plan is a valuable tool in managing and resolving conflict.  Benefits include:

  • All stakeholders receive consistent, timely and adequate information for their level of interest and impact on the project
  • Cost-saving: by planning communication needs and related costs, no other budgets are diverted to accommodate those needs
  • Increased stakeholder engagement, by providing them with the information they need when they need it, the confidence in those running the project will increase and the likelihood of them changing their view negatively will decrease
  • Everyone will work with the correct information, decreasing the likelihood of rework, doubt, confusion, and concerns

Barriers to Communication Task

Research each of the following barriers and find examples of how they can influence the communication process:

  1. Physiological barriers
  2. Cultural barriers
  3. Psychological barriers
  4. Individual linguistic ability
  5. Format of information presentation

Make notes on your findings and save them for your portfolio of evidence.

The Thomas Kilmann Model

The Thomas Kilmann model identifies two dimensions when choosing a course of action in a conflict situation, these are assertiveness and cooperativeness.

  • Assertiveness is the degree to which you try to satisfy your own needs
  • Cooperativeness is the degree to which you try to satisfy the other person's concerns

Matrix of assertiveness and cooperativeness, and where each conflict resolution style sits on the matrix

Figure 1:  The Thomas Killman model

Knowing when and how to use each style can help control conflict and lead to an improved working environment, resulting in a better bottom line.

“Each strategy has its own benefits; there is no right or wrong conflict management style,” says Dr. Barbara Benoliel, a certified professional mediator and mitigation specialist and faculty member for the PhD in Human and Social Services program at Walden University. “Understanding how you instinctively respond to conflicts as well as having increased awareness of other management styles may help how you typically approach specific situations and lead to efficient and effective conflict resolution.”

  • Collaborating Style: A combination of being assertive and cooperative, those who collaborate attempt to work with others to identify a solution that fully satisfies everyone’s concerns. In this style, which is the opposite of avoiding, both sides can get what they want, and negative feelings are minimised. “Collaborating works best when the long-term relationship and outcome are important—for example, planning for integrating two departments into one, where you want the best of both in the newly formed department,” Dr. Benoliel says.
  • Competing Style: Those who compete are assertive and uncooperative and willing to pursue one’s own concerns at another person’s expense. Dr. Benoliel explains using this style works when you don’t care about the relationship, but the outcome is important, such as when competing with another company for a new client. But she cautions, “Don’t use competing inside your organization; it doesn’t build relationships.”
  • Avoiding Style: Those who avoid conflict tend to be unassertive and uncooperative while diplomatically sidestepping an issue or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation. “Use this when it is safer to postpone dealing with the situation or you don’t have as great a concern about the outcome, such as if you have a conflict with a co-worker about their ethics of using FaceTime on the job.”
  • Accommodating Style: The opposite of competing, there is an element of self-sacrifice when accommodating to satisfy the other person. While it may seem generous, it could take advantage of the weak and cause resentment. “You can use accommodating when you really don’t care a lot about the outcome but do want to preserve or build the relationship,” Dr. Benoliel says, “such as going out for lunch with the boss and agreeing, ‘If you want to go for Thai food for lunch, that’s OK with me.’”
  • Compromising Style: This style aims to find an expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties in the conflict while maintaining some assertiveness and cooperativeness. “This style is best to use when the outcome is not crucial and you are losing time; for example, when you want to just make a decision and move on to more important things and are willing to give a little to get the decision made,” Dr. Benoliel says. “However,” she adds, “be aware that no one is really satisfied.”


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In this Course, you'll explore customer reporting and project appraisal including communication, conflict management, and earned value.
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