According to a theoretical supposition in behavioral research, when we work together with others, we do so unselfishly in order to achieve a common objective. This assumption can be best applied to project management and in organizations.
Unfortunately, this is not how the people and organizations do it in reality. Instead, certain conditions and workplace issues are encountered. Due to some work discrepancies, political conflict among managers is prevalent and abuse of power occurs. There is lack of open communication, low level of trust and respect, and lack of mutual support. Resentment and hostility among individuals is widespread.
Existing organizational conflicts cause problems for project managers who are taking great efforts to generate participation and teamwork from individuals and groups in a project organization. Unless conflicts can be resolved and dealt with accordingly, these attempts of promoting teamwork in a project will be hard to achieve.
Potential Sources of Conflict
There have been many researches about conflict in project management. Taking one of these studies, let us identify the potential sources of conflict from Thamhain and Wilemon.
The top-ranking source of conflict is schedules. Scheduling is probably one of the toughest obligations of most project managers. We might think that it is easy to establish a schedule for the many appointments, tasks, and other work, but it is actually the other way around. Next in the list is project priorities. Because managers need to attend to the projects of the organization, sometimes conflict arises when not all projects are given attention and importance.
Third on the list is manpower resources. Lack of individuals to work on a certain project may cause pressure. When people start to feel the intensity of pressure, they also start cramming and become less motivated to work on it. Technical conflict and administrative procedures are part of the list, too. Finally, cost objectives and personality conflicts complete the list of sources of conflict for this particular study.
These sources of conflict are not the real content of the situation but the underlying cause of such disagreement. All organizations experience some form of disagreement over these identified sources. These disagreements become heated arguments and thus become a conflict. But not all disagreements are necessarily conflicts. It can be prevented from turning into a conflict if the organization works together.
People Factor in Organizational Conflicts
A project organization either creates teamwork or conflict depending on the kind if people involved in a project. Even if the organizational structure is solid and develops teamwork, individual differences can still trigger conflict. In project management, people problems can be classified into three main aspects which are individual and group interests, personality problems, and “problem people”.
People have their personal motivations and interests even when working with a team. When these interests differ or do not arrive at a common ground, conflicts arise. Groups who have incompatible objectives for the organization cause conflict. Such incompatibility may be caused by differences in culture.
Differences in personality is a common source of conflict. Individuals employ emotions especially in conflicts. Positive emotions promote teamwork; however, negative emotions encourage conflict. The “problem people” are examples of those who have difficult personalities and their behavior may worsen a situation if not managed properly. Even in management, there are managers who are also problem people. Apart from lack of interpersonal skills, they possess ruthlessness and lack of principles, insecurity, and poor management style.
Poor Interpersonal Skills
Project managers who lack good interpersonal skills or people skills are inefficient in dealing with the organization and issues within. Such incompetence may cause the relationships of managers with their people to be weak and resentful. If this is the situation, conflicts are more likely to generate.
Managers who lack the ability to relate to the people also lack sensitivity and tact in dealing with them. They are also characterized by the poor choice of words, inability to deal with pressure, poor listening skill, and inappropriate expression of facial and body gestures or body language.
In project management, a manager should possess strong leadership abilities instead of appearing incompetent to the team. In order to reduce conflicts caused by this factor, managers can join specialized training for enhancement of their managerial attributes.