As everyone in business knows, there’s a plethora of slick tech-related innovative resources currently on the market. These tools offer valuable insight into basically everything. Yet there’s one thing—one thing!—technology has yet to crack, and that’s person-to-person relationships. It’s inevitable. Throw humans into the mix, and conflict is bound to arise.

If the thought of facing conflict makes you squirm, you’re not alone. But don’t worry, there are things you can do that make confronting conflict easier.

Conflict Resolution Strategies for Project Managers

Conflicts arise for a plethora of reasons, from insubordination to poor performance.

The strategies laid out here are general enough to be applied in almost all scenarios. The key is to leverage emotional intelligence, which is a critical component of conflict resolution, and combine that with an in-depth understanding of the company’s policies and project objectives as a whole.

Be Clear

Clarity is crucial:

  • What are the roles and responsibilities that define the position?
  • What exactlyis the issue, what are the contributing factors?
  • How is the team falling short?
  • How does this need to be approached, according to company policy?

Conflict is usually complex. There may be a variety of combining factors involved such as differences in personality, or not fully comprehending the scope of the project.

Remain Neutral

Once you believe you have a clear idea of the issue, it’s time to meet with the team or individuals involved.

Do your best to remain neutral. This can be a challenge—sometimes there are just certain traits and personalities that rub us the wrong way. Don’t let that override your judgment. Separate the person or people from the issue, and remain professional.

Identify the root cause

The goal of conflict resolution is to identify the root cause of the issue and eliminate it. There can be more than one cause. You took the time to be clear about what you think it is from your perspective, now it’s time to hear from the team or the side of the other people involved.


Effective communication starts with listening. Be an active listener. Ask questions. Many issues are pure misunderstandings, and the longer they go unaddressed, the bigger the problem becomes.

Aim for a Win-Win

Here’s the bottom line: A team that works together well and understands how they contribute to business goals as a whole is more likely to be productive.

Eliminating friction within the team—whatever that looks like—makes for an overall more enjoyable work experience. And the more people are excited about showing up for work, the better the job retention and overall productivity.

Aim for this outcome, without compromising the integrity of the company. Don’t indulge in unrealistic demands.

Based on the issue at hand and project objectives, what does a win-win look like in your situation?

Establishing a Resolution

Resolving the issue should encompass a win-win. If the team needs to adjust their output, be specific about what that looks like. What goals need to be met, and when?

If there’s a clash of personalities, what does working well together look like? What strategies and steps need to happen to work through it, and arrive at mutually beneficial ground?

If there is a misunderstanding about a task, ensure that those involved are keenly aware of what is expected of them.

Track Data as Necessary

Here’s where you can use technology to your advantage.

Project management tools such as Accelo allow you to track time and customize your workflows and fields based on the specifics of your industry standard. Better yet, there’s an audit trail documenting project details, comment threads, and decisions made. Additionally, Accelo’s issue and risk management features allow those granted permissions to log and track potential risks that may result in future conflicts.

Whatever project management software you use, be sure you’re taking full advantage of its capabilities.


It’s critical that you document each step of the way, beginning with the issue, and ending with the resolution, according to company policy. Make sure the involved parties sign related paperwork if indicated.

Escalate if Necessary

If the issue cannot be resolved at your level, that’s ok. Follow the procedures outlined by company policy, and escalate up the chain of command.

Following up

Follow up after the issue has been addressed is important. Check in with the team to learn how they’re faring, and ask if they have any feedback for you. If there was a personality related conflict, see how it’s going now.

Be sure to provide feedback of your own. If they’re doing well? Excellent! Let them know that. If there are still things that could be tweaked and modified? No big deal, adjust as necessary.


Just like in any relationship, communication plays a critical role. A company that’s open to discussions at every level is a company that people generally enjoy showing up to work for.

If you aim for clarity, keep it professional, and approach conflict resolution from a win-win perspective, congrats. You’ve addressed an issue and reinforced a critical value.