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Conflict between team members is common and sometimes needs to be encouraged. Conflict can serve as a way to check assumptions and the direction that the project is going. By getting all the ideas and opinions out on the table is the team able to sort through them all looking for the best solution to the problem. Conflict can cause people to build on each other’s ideas and work together to obtain everyone’s interests.
Conflict becomes harmful when team members stop trying to understand each others positions and tempers start to cloud judgement. The skills needed to manage conflict are negotiation skills. There are several ways to negotiate as shown by the Thomas-Killman conflict mode. A person can use one or any of these negotiation styles depending on the circumstances. Some people will tend to use one or two styles most of the time but have the ability to use any of the models.
  • Accommodation – Disagreements are smoothed over so that harmony is maintained one party gives into another
  • Avoidance Denial – Neutrality is maintained at all costs. Withdrawal from the situation relieves the necessity for dealing with conflict
  • Competition – win-lose power struggles are fought out, decided by the powerful or through arbitration.
  • Problem Solving – A process used to assess several points of view and alternatives. Solutions involve meeting the minimum.
  • Compromise – Compromise, bargaining and middle-ground positions are accepted. “Divide the pie” win-win is not possible. Win-lose would cause negative repercussions.
As you are negotiating the conflict think of ways you can both win or even if they win now maybe you have credit to win next time.
Not all conflicts need to be resolved. When they are having negative effects on the team or the project then they need to be addressed. Having an understanding of the other persons point of view and being able to communicate your point of view successfully will add to the success of resolving the conflict.
So how do you handle conflict? Now that you know the types of negotiation skills you fist start off by listening to all the people involved. You are trying to understand where they are coming from and what their investment is in the conflict. After you have an understanding of the conflict and the people involved you will need to look for solutions that will hopefully cover the interests of everyone involved. Since many times people cannot always have their way you will need to find a compromise that allows the parties to feel that they did not give up everything but did succeed in wining part of the conflict.
Conflict can be a tricky part of teaming. Being able to see others points of view and then clearly stating your point of view will serve the best in any conflict. Knowing when to give in and when to stand on a topic is difficult since every situation is different. In some conflicts it helps to have a neutral third party to help find the compromise and cool down tension between the members.

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