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Conflict is actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and

interests. A conflict can be internal (within oneself) to individuals.
Conflict as a concept can help explain many aspects of social life such
as social disagreement, conflicts of interests, and fights between
individuals, groups, or organizations. In political terms, "conflict" can
refer to wars, revolutions or other struggles, which may involve the use
of force as in the term armed conflict. Without proper social
arrangement or resolution, conflicts in social settings can result in
stress or tensions among stakeholders. When an interpersonal conflict
does occur, its effect is often broader than two individuals involved,
and can affect many associate individuals and relationships, in more or
less adverse and sometimes even way.

Conflict as taught for graduate and professional work in conflict

resolution (which can be win-win, where both parties get what they
want, win-lose where one party gets what they want, or lose-lose
where both parties don't get what they want) commonly has the
definition: "when two or more parties, with perceived incompatible
goals, seek to undermine each other's goal-seeking capability".

A clash of interests, values, actions or directions often sparks a

conflict. Conflicts refer to the existence of that clash. Psychologically, a
conflict exists when the reduction of one motivating stimulus involves
an increase in another, so that a new adjustment is demanded. The
word is applicable from the instant that the clash occurs. Even when
we say that there is a potential conflict we are implying that there is

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already a conflict of direction even though a clash may not yet have

Phases of conflict:

Prelude to Conflict: Variables that make conflict possible between

those involved

Triggering Event: A particular event, such as criticism which creates

the conflict

Initiation Phase: Occurs when at least one person makes it known to

the other that a conflict exists

Differentiation Phase: Parties raise the conflict issues and pursue

reasons for the varying positions

Integration stage / Resolution: Parties acknowledge common

grounds and explore possibilities to move towards a solution

Clarifying Confusion about Conflict:

Conflict is when two or more values, perspectives and opinions are

contradictory in nature and haven't been aligned or agreed about yet,

1. Within yourself when you're not living according to your values

2. When your values and perspectives are threatened.
3. Discomfort from fear of the unknown or from lack of fulfillment.
Conflict is inevitable and often good, for example, good teams always
go through a "form, storm, norm and perform" period. Getting the
most out of diversity means often-contradictory values, perspectives
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and opinions.

Conflict is often needed. It

1. Helps to raise and address problems.

2. Energizes work to be on the most appropriate issues.
3. Helps people "be real", for example, it motivates them to
4. Helps people learn how to recognize and benefit from their
Conflict is not the same as discomfort. The conflict isn't the problem it
is when conflict is poorly managed that is the problem.

Conflict is a problem when it

1. Hampers productivity.
2. Lowers morale.
3. Causes more and continued conflicts.
4. Causes inappropriate behaviors.

Types of Conflict:

By evaluating a conflict according to the five categories below

relationship, data, interest, structural and value we can begin to
determine the causes of a conflict and design resolution strategies that
will have a higher probability of success.

Relationship Conflicts

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Relationship conflicts occur because of the presence of strong negative
emotions, misperceptions or stereotypes, poor communication or
miscommunication, or repetitive negative behaviors. Relationship
problems often fuel disputes and lead to an unnecessary escalating
spiral of destructive conflict. Supporting the safe

and balanced expression of perspectives and emotions for

acknowledgment (not agreement) is one effective approach to
managing relational conflict.

Data Conflicts

Data conflicts occur when people lack information necessary to make

wise decisions, are misinformed, disagree on which data is relevant,
interpret information differently, or have competing assessment
procedures. Some data conflicts may be unnecessary since they are
caused by poor communication between the people in conflict. Other
data conflicts may be genuine incompatibilities associated with data
collection, interpretation or communication. Most data conflicts will
have "data solutions."

Interest Conflicts

Interest conflicts are caused by competition over perceived

incompatible needs. Conflicts of interest result when one or more of
the parties believe that in order to satisfy his or her needs, the needs
and interests of an opponent must be sacrificed. Interest-based conflict
will commonly be expressed in positional terms. A variety of interests
and intentions underlie and motivate positions in negotiation and must

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be addressed for maximized resolution. Interest-based conflicts may
occur over substantive issues (such as money, physical resources,
time, etc.); procedural issues (the way the dispute is to be resolved);
and psychological issues (perceptions of trust, fairness, desire for
participation, respect, etc.). For an interest-based dispute to be
resolved, parties must be assisted to define and express their
individual interests so that all of these interests may be jointly
addressed. Interest-based conflict is best resolved through the
maximizing integration of the parties' respective interests, positive
intentions and desired experiential outcomes.

Structural Conflicts

Structural conflicts are caused by forces external to the people in

dispute. Limited physical resources or authority, geographic
constraints (distance or proximity), time (too little or too much),
organizational changes, and so forth can make structural conflict seem
like a crisis. It can be helpful to assist parties in conflict to appreciate
the external forces and constraints bearing upon them. Structural
conflicts will often have structural solutions. Parties' appreciation that a
conflict has an external source can have the effect of them coming to
jointly address the imposed difficulties.

Value Conflicts

Value conflicts are caused by perceived or actual incompatible belief

systems. Values are beliefs that people use to give meaning to their
lives. Values explain what is "good" or "bad," "right" or "wrong," "just"
or "unjust." Differing values need not cause conflict. People can live
together in harmony with different value systems. Value disputes arise

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only when people attempt to force one set of values on others or lay
claim to exclusive value systems that do not allow for divergent
beliefs. It is of no use to try to change value and belief systems during
relatively short and strategic mediation interventions. It can, however,
be helpful to support each participant's expression of their values and
beliefs for acknowledgment by the other party.

Types of Managerial Actions that Cause Workplace


1. Poor communications

a. Employees experience continuing surprises, they aren't informed of

decisions, programs, etc.
b. Employees don't understand reasons for decisions, they aren't
involved in
decision making.
c. As a result, employees trust the "rumor mill" more than

2. The alignment or the amount of resources is insufficient.

There is

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a. Disagreement about "who does what".
b. Stress from working with inadequate resources.

3. "Personal chemistry", including conflicting values or actions

among managers and employees, for example

a. Strong personal natures don't match.

b. We often don't like in others what we don't like in ourselves.

4. Leadership problems, including inconsistent, missing, too

strong or uninformed leadership (at any level in the
organization), evidenced by

a. Avoiding conflict, "passing the buck" with little follow-through on

b. Employees see the same continued issues in the workplace.
c. Supervisors don't understand the jobs of their subordinates.

Key Managerial Actions / Structures to Minimize


1. Regularly review job descriptions. Get your employee's input

to them. Write down and date job descriptions. Ensure

a. Job roles don't conflict.

b. No tasks "fall in a crack".

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2. Intentionally build relationships with all subordinates.

a. Meet at least once a month alone with them in office.

b. Ask about accomplishments, challenges and issues.

3. Get regular, written status reports and includes

a. Accomplishments.
b. Currents issues and needs from management.
c. Plans for the upcoming period.

4. Conduct basic training about

a. Interpersonal communications.
b. Conflict management.
c. Delegation.

5. Develop procedures for routine tasks and include the

employees' input.

a. Have employees write procedures when possible and appropriate.

b. Get employees' review of the procedures.

c. Distribute the procedures.

d. Train employees about the procedures.

6. Regularly hold management meetings, for example, every

month, to communicate new initiatives and status of current

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7. Consider an anonymous suggestion box in which employees
can provide suggestions.


When personal conflict leads to frustration and loss of efficiency,

counseling may prove to be a helpful antidote. Although few
organizations can afford the luxury of having professional counselors
on the staff, given some training, managers may be able to perform
this function. Nondirective counseling, or "listening with
understanding", is little more than being a good listener something
every manager should be.

Sometimes the simple process of being able to vent one's feelings that
is, to express them to a concerned and understanding listener, is
enough to relieve frustration and make it possible for the frustrated
individual to advance to a problem solving frame of mind, better able
to cope with a personal difficulty that is affecting his work adversely.
The nondirective approach is one effective way for managers to deal
with frustrated subordinates and co-workers.

There is other more direct and more diagnostic ways that might be
used in appropriate circumstances. The great strength of the
nondirective approach (nondirective counseling is based on the client
centered therapy of Carl Rogers),

however, lies in its simplicity, its effectiveness, and the fact that it
deliberately avoids the manager-counselor's diagnosing and
interpreting emotional problems, which would call for special
psychological training. No one has ever been harmed by being listened

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to sympathetically and understandingly. On the contrary, this approach
has helped many people to cope with problems that were interfering
with their effectiveness on the job.

Ways People Deal With Conflict:

There is no one best way to deal with conflict. It depends on the

current situation. Here are the major ways that people use to deal with

1. Avoid it. Pretend it is not there or ignore it.

a. Use it when it simply is not worth the effort to argue. Usually this
approach tends to worsen the conflict over time.

2. Accommodate it. Give in to others, sometimes to the extent

that you compromise yourself.

a. Use this approach very sparingly and infrequently, for example, in

when you know that you will have another more useful approach in the
near future. Usually this approach tends to worsen the conflict over
time, and
causes conflicts within you.

3. Competing. Work to get your way, rather than clarifying and

addressing the issue. Competitors love accommodators.

a. Use when you have a very strong conviction about your position.

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4. Compromising. Mutual give and take.

a. Use when the goal is to get past the issue and move on.

5. Collaborating. Focus on working together.

a. Use when the goal is to meet as many current needs as possible by

using mutual
resources. This approach sometimes raises new mutual needs.
b. Use when the goal is to cultivate ownership and commitment.

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