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Three Dangerous Routes and a Proposed Safe Route for Dealing with Conflict
By Ammar W. Mango

There are dangerous yet tempting routes many take in conflict resolution. Here are three dangerous routes to avoid:

  1. Immediately be biased to your side of the issue. For example: if I am a supplier team member and there is a conflict between the client and the supplier, I immediately start looking selectively for facts that support the supplier’s point of view. Same happens if I am on the client side. Both sides of course feel justified in what they are doing as they need to protect their interests. Long term, the interests of both sides are served when a fair resolution is reached, regardless whether supplier or client is at fault. This is not theory, this is reality proven from what happens in real life. If a supplier is known to take a defensive position and to point fingers to client regardless if he is at fault or not, then he will become long-term out of favor with clients and will gain a bad reputation. The supplier this way ultimately loses. Same with the client side. So, when a client representative sides with the client regardless of whether they are justified or not is not doing his company any favors and is actually hurting them long-term.
  2. Using conflict as a way to achieve political gains, regardless of what that does to the project and the work at hand. An example of that is using the conflict to point fingers and blame a department, group, or person for the problem, instead of trying to resolve a problem which most probably is caused by a flaw in a process and involves more than just one department or person. So, to achieve political gains, a person or a group is used as a scapegoat. Usually departments and groups at the end of the production chain are easiest to be used as scapegoats, like the IT department and the manufacturing department. Typically, problems that have been accumulating from early concept stages are hidden all through the development process and surface close to the time of product delivery.

  3. Letting ego and emotions get the best of us. So, if I do not like someone or someone attacked me personally, then I get back at them by attacking them to get out of the problem. So, because I have a personal agenda, I defend my position unjustifiably to get away from the blame and send it on my attacker.

A safer route to conflict resolution might include the following steps:

  1. Assess the situation.
  2. Take any urgent measures related to safety, security, and stopping financial loss or further deterioration of the problem.

  3. Take a deep breath.

  4. Understand the facts. Insist on hearing facts, not emotions or opinions. Demand conciseness and clarity.

  5. Understand the other side point of view.

  6. Understand the circumstances that led to the problem.

  7. Understand the root causes of the problem.

  8. Pick up the phone, rather than writing an email to communicate with parties related to the problem. Follow up and confirm agreements with emails. Sometimes when you need to explain your position on a complex situation, an email first might be appropriate.

  9. Do not try to control the uncontrollable. Accept that some things are out of your control.

  10. Leave crying over spilled milk, blame, and even pondering lessons learned until at least the problem is contained.

  11. When the other side has a point, be clear in your understanding of the other side point of view. It builds credibility.

  12. If you are wrong admit it, and be ready to remedy the situation and take responsibility over your part of the problem.

  13. Remind parties of fairness and win-win, instead of taking a hard unrealistic stance.

  14. Give time, when possible, for emotions to cool down.

Ammar W. Mango, CSSBB, PgMP, PMP is an Organizational Project Management Consultant at Method ( You can read more from Ammar on his blog.

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