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How to Turn Stakeholder Conflict on Its Head

Conflict management is often more of an art than a skill. Leaders need to know how to listen to all sides of the story and be able to fairly arrive at a solution that is acceptable to everyone. In a post for The Project Risk Coach, Harry Hall shares how to better tackle stakeholder conflict so that things do not end up blown out of proportion.

The Quest for Agreement

Harry Hall shares an instance in which a project he managed aimed to create a customer service representative (CSR) position. Prior to the project, administrative personnel handled customer service in remote locations. This new project would have exceptionally decreased the administrative personnel’s role. There was great tension among the stakeholders and organization because not everyone was as excited about this project. Hall shares the five ways you can respond to such stakeholder conflict:

  1. Withdraw
  2. Focus on the good
  3. Compromise
  4. Exercise power
  5. Problem-solving

Some people are greatly opposed to confrontation, and so they merely withdraw from the challenging scenario. This will not resolve anything, and the problem will repeatedly resurface until it is properly addressed. Certain project managers try to play it cool and merely focus on the aspects that people agree upon. Down the road they will likely run into roadblocks because the differences are merely kicked to the side. By comparison, compromising of course is an excellent project management tactic because it focuses on finding a solution that is amicable for everyone.

Some project managers are inclined to exercise their authority and power by “laying down the law” in a very strict fashion. Initially people may go along with this, but down the line most people will grow resentful and attempt to undermine the project manager. Problem-solving is the best solution, if time allows. This solution allows for everyone’s opinions to be understood and is the option that creates the least resentment and undermining in the long run.

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About Danielle Koehler

Danielle is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. She has degrees in English and human resource management from Shippensburg University.

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