As a project manager I learned to pay close attention when the slightest sign of conflict or confrontation arose. If it looked serious, I would stop proceedings right away. This was so we could focus on what was wrong and figure out how to resolve it. If we didn’t, I knew it could endanger our mutual goals by blocking forward progress.

Powerful feelings need healing. When they arise it may be necessary, and even advisable, to engage in conflict or confrontation. While most people do not like confrontation, it can serve a very useful purpose. Confrontation gives everyone a chance to discuss the problem or problems; and will help us arrive at a solution if consensus is possible. When having discussions about conflict there are certain rules that must be followed. Everyone must realize they have a responsibility to treat all parties with respect; respect for the individual and for their ideas and feelings. Everyone must have the opportunity to express their opinion. If two or more people cannot agree on resolution, it is up to the project manager to schedule a separate meeting for those involved so that an agreement can be made.

While avoiding conflict can be a sign of weakness, the inability to resolve the conflict my require a time-out. By time-out I mean discontinuing further meetings and halting the project for a time. Granted, a lengthy time-out may jeopardize due dates and even the final completion date for the project. But this may also provide the needed incentive to get the project resolved. This is an example of using a passive approach, the time-out, to reestablish forward motion.

As we’ve seen in Washington, D.C., conflict and confrontation are sometimes used as political strategies. But conflicts and confrontations are not what produce progress. Progress is only resumed when the negative feelings created by conflict are balanced by the powers of healing.

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