Managing Project Conflicts

There are a handful of techniques a project manager (PM) can use to deal with conflicts. Depending on the situation, different techniques can be utilized to achieve certain outcomes. If the stakes are low and the conflict is unlikely to be easily resolved, avoiding or withdrawing from the problem can be a way to manage those more minor issues even if the issue itself is not resolved. This leads to a lose-lose situation but reduces resource use towards minor issues (Meredith, Shafer and Mantel 2017, 129). Smoothing or accommodating can also be used for minor issues or when there is not time to deal with the issue. The PM will resolve the issue from the other person’s point of view if it is important to the other person or the PM is wrong. This leads to a lose-win strategy if employed (Meredith, Shafer and Mantel 2017, 129). Both avoiding and accommodating are methods of a typically unassertive PM.

When an issue arises where both sides need to be at least partially satisfied, a PM can employee compromising or reconciling techniques. While the solution is agreeable by both parties, typically neither party feel like they got what they wanted and this is a lose-lose situation (Meredith, Shafer and Mantel 2017, 129-130). In a competing or forcing technique, a PM will agree with one side on the issue and will implement a quick solution if one party has stronger points. This leads to a win-lose situation but resolves matters quickly (Meredith, Shafer and Mantel 2017, 129). The ideal technique is the collaborative or confronting strategy. In this case, all parties on an issue are assertive, but cooperative. This allows a PM to incorporate multiple views and develop a solution that achieves the goal while providing benefits to both parties and is a win-win solution (Meredith, Shafer and Mantel 2017, 129).

Additional PM Skills

The most important skill a project manager (PM) should have is communication skills. The ability to listen, persuade, and negotiate are critical to acquiring resources, balancing rivalries, and meeting the demands of leadership and clients (Meredith, Shafer and Mantel 2017, 81-88). Similar to communication, a PM should also have creditability. Technical credibility ensures the PM has the knowledge needed to direct the project and interface with clients, leaders, and functional departments. Administrative credibility ensures the PM can organize tasks and manage time effectively. A PM with strong credibility characteristics will be more likely to deliver results effectively (Meredith, Shafer and Mantel 2017, 95-96). Additionally, high emotional intelligence (EQ) is also a skill that is a predictor of PM job performance. High EQ allows a PM to motivate and influence stakeholders during sensitive issues that drives greater engagement and agreement (Meredith, Shafer and Mantel 2017, 97). If a PM has good communication skills, credibility, and emotional intelligence, they should be considered highly for any project that requires an effective PM.

Author: Logan Callen


Meredith, Jack R., Scott M. Shafer, and Samuel J. Mantel. 2017. Project Management: A Strategic Managerial Approach. 10th ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN-13: 9781119369097.

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