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How to manage conflict in an organisation

Our focus this month has been on managing projects starting with navigating complexities that may arise, getting the right team on board and knowing when and how to outsource. Today, we will look into how to manage conflict with a focus on handling projects.

Conflict is quite inevitable as it is part of our everyday life and the workplace is not exempt. The possibility of two or more parties to disagree on project related issues may arise from difference in perception, values, needs, expectations and personality. However, understanding this is natural and how conflict can be managed is key to ensuring the success of a project.

What causes conflict?

Many factors attributed to conflict within an organisation include issues with communication, unresolved conflict and cultural differences. However, for the sake of this blog, we will focus on four common causes of conflict.

  • Personal clashes

  • Task related conflicts

  • Resistance to change

  • Work structure

Personal clashes

A team is made up of people with different personalities and cultures. Thus, members may react to challenges or situations based on personality type which may lead to unproductivity. However, as the CIPD pointed out, “Some conflict can be positive, such as a healthy amount of competition between team members to reach goals but negative conflict, like bullying or personality clashes, can harm individuals and undermine teamworking”.

Task related conflicts

Task related conflicts arise when actions from team members affect the ability of other members to complete tasks within the expected time frame. This is why it is important to clearly set out realistic expectations from the onset. RACI Matrix can be adopted to avoid task related conflicts.

Resistance to change

It is human nature to be naturally opposed to change. Hence, team members may react negatively when a new member of staff is brought into the team or when a policy is rolled out.

Work structure

In a situation where the work structure is not well defined, conflict could arise as a result of workload, reporting relationship or working style. Understanding how each member works is key to avoiding conflict related to work structure.

Managing the conflict

According to Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), there are five ways to manage conflict in a team as depicted below.

Competition - refers to a category of team members who are assertive and uncooperative. They tend to always want to have their way in any task or situation. To manage this set of people, it is important to select tasks they are involved in, for instance, tasks that require quick decisions.

Avoidance - refers to a category of team members who are unassertive and uncooperative. They tend to diplomatically sidestep issues. As a team leader, it is best to introduce creative methods to encourage team members to voice out their opinion (this could be done anonymously) or such members may be reassigned to a different team to task.

Accommodation - refers to a category of team members who are unassertive and cooperative. They tend to go out of their way to please others at the expense of their opinion or the aftermath result. Team leaders can try to manage conflict that may arise by encouraging team members to learn to confront certain issues rather than accept them.

Collaboration - refers to a category of team members who are cooperative and assertive. They tend to contribute to the team. To manage conflict in this scenario, affected parties might need to sit and talk about the situation to come up with a solution that benefits everyone.

Compromise - refers to a category of team members who are assertive and cooperative. This means that team members try to reach others halfway. Managers should encourage team members to reach compromise during tasks.

In summary, while conflict cannot be entirely avoided, it can be managed to ensure that productivity is not compromised.

We offer conflict management solutions to business in need of better ways to handle conflict internally. Please email us at for a free consultation.


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