It is unrealistic to assume that we can all live in a Mary Poppins kind of workplace, one where birds are tweeting happily from some random nook, and one where flower petals fall in front of our feet as we walk. In fact, that would be disturbing. The reality is that conflict is present, and even necessary to move our projects to completion. It is how the conflict is handled that Saves the Monkey in the Middle from obstacles in their way.
In the book “Crucial Confrontations” by Kerry Patterson, he defines the word confront as “holding someone accountable, face to face.” This is does not happen enough in our politically correct world, and if executed properly it could increase productivity and improve communication on our projects. How often have you been in a meeting and the “elephant in the room” is sitting at the table while everyone discusses all the minor issues in an effort not to hurt anyone’s feelings?
If you enter into a conversation involving conflict, you should do so consciously. Make sure you keep your mind open so that you do not automatically assume the other person is wrong. Also, before the conversation begins, analyze what the actual problem is. Keep in mind the issue that brought the situation to light may not be the actual problem. Be ready to listen more than you talk in an attempt to understand. Also – choose your words carefully. If you take conflict resolution training, there will be canned phrases recommended to use, but I find the personal intuition is more important in these situations, and it will be a more successful conversation just by opening up, and letting your true self into the discussion. It is important to remain assertive, yet empathetic, to get to the heart of the problem. Once someone deems you think you already know the answer, they will go to defensiveness and the conversation will deteriorate.
By learning to manage necessary confrontations, teams will work better together, grow more trustful, and hold each other accountable. The Project Manager will be rewarded with an effective, productive team driving the project to completion!
Patterson, Kerry, et al. Crucial Confrontations. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005. Print.