I am working as project manager for a while and as the result i have to deal with different conflicts which periodically appear among team members. Even though my teams are built up only from real proffesionals which know what they are doing, but conflicts seems to be inevitable since people spend quite a lot of time together. And reasons are sometimes so different … Those vary from bad oddor to arguing which implementation approach is the best.
As i am result oriented - one of my goals is have highly efficient and productive team. And it is not only that we are officially working in agile environment now (i was never fond of beurocracy and conforming stupid rules) and one of the scrum goals is to have highly performing team. Since i am pretty sure that only success makes people happy and only this allows to enjoy the job. Since i saw a lot of examples (and not only in Agile teams) where even technically easy and not interesting thing can make team happy since it brings a lot of value and done on time!
It is also important to highlight that some conflicts may be usefull while they can lead into some good/constructive decisions. Two team members and an architect may argue about 2 development approaches for two days and finally notice that completly different approach is the best. But in this case as scrum master (project manager) you must track this issue very carefully, since such discussion might lead into complete failure (none of the approaches is chosen and sprint/project/… is late).
But how to solve conflicts anyway?
In case if agile environment is taken into account most of the problems/complaints will be addressed to Scrum Master, since he must handle all the impediments which occur in a team‘s way. (Well, in other environmetns there will be a different person – project manager, team leader and etc.) As i noticed from my experience it is better that someone who complaints about something/someone would directly sovle the problem with the person who is the root of the problem, and avoid becoming an advocate of both sides. In this way impact is understood better by both sides and everyone can take corrective actions to avoid similar issues in future. It is like helping people to learn on their mistakes. So, it seems to be that the main goal of conflict solving is to lead/coach people and make them to solve their problem by themselves. It could be done in several steps, for example:
- Ask person if he tried to share problem with the person X ? If not, than the guy should be suggested to do so.
- If #1 is not working. Then you can suggest going with him to person X and support. It can be additional motivation or just root of the problem might be someone from other department.
- If #2 is not working. Then you must share the problem with the person alone, but it should be done anonymously. You should tell the person who complaints about that you will inform person X about him, since anonymous complants are not acceptable.
But in any way you need notice when you are being manipulated and stop this as soon as notice it – use your authority in this case 😉