Anyone like to get bad news? How about “surprise” bad news? You’ve probably been on the receiving end of it, so you know what you felt, panic, disappointment, anger, hurt, fear, stress? How did you react outwardly? Be honest, did you “Kill the Messenger” – Fight Response or “Raise the Drawbridges” – Flight Response?  This can be the start of an escalating conflict on a project if the people involved rely only on their instinctive responses to what may feel like a personal attack as demonstrated in this first animated video.

Obviously, both parties in this situation felt unfairly treated and that they were in the right. Expectations were not being managed and the relationship is in jeopardy.  Anyone who has a client or customer, will at some point have to address a situation where the client’s expectations have not been met through causes under or outside their control. To maintain a relationship through this time requires an effective conflict management approach as demonstrated in this second animated video.

Here are the 4 Conflict Management Steps demonstrated in the video

1. Listen – to them and their concerns – ask them questions and perception check to be sure you understand. In addition to letting them vent, it’s clarifying what the real issues and needs are so they can be solved.

2. Empathize – with their situation – show you understand the position they are in and you are sorry that they are having to deal with the issue. It’s not admitting you are wrong, it’s about showing you care that they are in a stressful/awkward/uncomfortable etc. position.

3. Solve – the problem or issue WITH them not for them – joint problem solving moves away from pointing fingers to joint investment in the solution.

4. Thank – them for being willing to work out the issue with you – they could have just told everyone else about the problem/issue and not worked it out with you. It also opens up dialogue on ways to prevent recurrence of issue.

“Whenever you are in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.”  William James

Join this conversation by sharing your experiences with conflict resolution on projects or check out our Project Management Training Page for more information.