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So You Don't Get Along: How to Manage Personnel Conflicts

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You’re working on a team with another person you know is skilled and experienced. Perhaps you are working to engineer or design a solution to a multi-million dollar problem. He or she isn’t on the same page as you. Whether you are the leader of the project or just a member of the team, this type of personal conflict is going to hold your success back. How can you overcome it and achieve your ultimate goal of exceeding the expectations of your client?

Realize Everyone Is Different, and That’s Okay

There is rarely a single way to look at something within a project. Often times, there are multiple viewpoints. When navigating through an engineering problem, these differing viewpoints and opinions can often help your team to find creative solutions they would not otherwise see. In fact, one of the best structures for any firm is to have a diverse workforce. That doesn’t help you on the job, though.

When conflicts arise, take a step back. Discuss with the other person or team that you value their opinion, but you want them to see it from your point as well. Being the voice of reason is important, but it doesn’t mean backing down from what you believe in. Rather, you ultimately want to discuss all aspects of the solution so that the resolution is the best it can be.

Build a Team Through Communication

When personal conflicts arise in an architecture firm, you may feel as if you “just can’t do it” or cannot spend another day at the draft table with this person. However, since every member of the team is generally key to the tasks at hand, there’s a need to work through this. This is when team building and communication improving steps are necessary. Here are some tips:

  1. Walk away from the project and agree to communicate about the conflict.
  2. Recognize each others' abilities and strengths as a team.
  3. Ask each person what he or she needs to be successful while communicating your own needs.
  4. Agree to respect the differences each person offers.
  5. Create a positive outlook. "If we work together and through this conflict, we'll impress the client and secure more profitable projects down the road."

Define a Project Manager

Personnel conflicts can arise and stick around even through these types of conversations and work out meetings. When this happens, it's ultimately up to the project manager to make key decisions.

  1. Communicate that everyone needs to work together.
  2. Be specific about what isn't acceptable.
  3. Focus on the productivity and goals of the project, not individuals.
  4. Ask the team to work towards the goals and set aside their conflict.
  5. Always show respect for your team and command authority by being a fair, trusted and true-to-the project leader.
  6. Determine when and if someone refuses to be a dedicated member of the team and take action to mitigate this risk to the project.
  7. Create an action plan and manage the team by setting aside conflicts. Focus on the facts.
Often times, conflicts within the team can be hard to navigate because they are based on feelings and perceived emotions. The project manager's job in an AE firm is to get the draft completed and to work with the client to achieve success. You can't do this until you've resolved personnel conflicts effectively. The right tools ensure this is possible to accomplish. The key is to know the task at hand and how to work with people to achieve the goals of the project with the least amount of difficulty as possible.