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Why Different Conflict Management Styles are All Effective

Business challenge

As an architect, engineer or project manager you know your trade and you know what it takes to impress your client. Yet, being able to manage the project process and dealing with people throughout it can be more challenging. Even those with years of experience can find themselves overwhelmed when a problem arises. How can you effectively and efficiently deal with problems so the project doesn’t stray?

What Are Conflict Management Styles?

Many business owners, architects, engineers and project managers themselves are very much looking for the fastest, shortest, and most efficient way of solving a problem so they can move on from it. However, not every problem can be resolved in the same way. That’s why it pays to learn various conflict management styles. Here are some examples of effective conflict management styles:

  • Accommodating: You allow the other person's needs to come first and push aside others
  • Forcing: You use your authority to satisfy the problem at hand without regard to the other person's needs or problem
  • Avoiding: You avoid the problem at hand and work through it without addressing it
  • Compromising: Each party gives in a bit to achieve the goal of working together
  • Collaborating: You work with other people to understand their concerns, talk about your own, and then mutually agree to a solution
Which one is right for your situation? That depends. There are plenty of examples of when one of these methods is better than others. No method is wrong. All can be appropriate depending on the situation.

How Can They All Be Right?

Every situation presents different circumstances. Every method of conflict management can be appropriate at any given time. For example, consider these situations.

  • A team member has a family emergency, but other team members need their help. Accommodating may work here to allow the team member to handle their family situation.
  • Your contractor wants to forgo a problem by skipping a step that could result in a code violation. Forcing is appropriate here because they need to follow the rules.
  • Your team members seem to bicker on a daily basis, but still work well together. You can see their differences contribute to the success of the project. Avoiding here seems to work.
  • You have two team members who are in need of the same tools and resources. Compromising allows both parties to gain something.
  • You and your key architect on a project cannot see eye to eye. Here, collaborating and valuing each others' opinion can prove to be very valuable.
It’s clear that not every situation can be resolved effectively by every strategy. As a project manager it is up to you to consider all of the facts of the situation and then to determine which method of addressing the problem is best. This can be difficult in some cases, but it always results in your team working together more effectively.

Determining which conflict management strategy is appropriate takes a bit of common sense and a great deal of trial and error. How can you ensure that the best result occurs while also dealing with the conflict at hand? The key is to focus on the best outcome for the project. Sometimes, you will make a mistake here, but you can nearly always turn it around by trying another conflict management strategy if the first strategy doesn’t work.