Team Conflict Dynamic Model & Project Success

10. 15. 2018

The process of conflict resolution within the project team is a vital activity that determines project success

Conflicts within a project team are inevitable due to ideological differences which is a human nature. However, constructive conflicts within the project teams are healthy and ultimately ensure that the particular project effectively achieves its primary objectives. Project managers who act as the team leaders should understand that conflicts cannot be avoided within the team and therefore, strategize on how to control and manage the conflicts for the project success ("Dealing With Conflict In Project Teams | | Business Improvement Architects" 2018). Regardless of the cause of the project team conflict, constructive conflicts enhance the overall creativity of the project team alongside ensuring diversity of the project results. Conflicts ensure that every member of the project presents their ideas into the project and whether the ideas are embraced or not, each individual feels part of the project through understanding and cooperation resulting to successful and beneficial project outcomes both for the team and the entire business organization. 

Managing Project Team Conflicts

Managing team conflicts require a high competency from project managers or leaders in charge of the project teams.  Although projects vary in nature, one thing that is common to all project and that determines success is the ability to make effective decisions. Conflicts are hard to manage in project teams because they usually come in two forms, the constructive and destructive forms of conflicts ("Conflicts Of Legal Ideas And Concepts: Constructive And Destructive Aspects" 2018). Whereas the prior type comes with benefits to the teams’ decision making, the latter is a poison to the cooperation, understanding and the overall project success. The dynamic aspect of the team plays a key role in constructive conflicts because it determines the ability of the project team to effectively adapt to changes which are inevitable in any project. Project managers should have effective strategies that should encourage constructive conflicts for the overall success of the project. Additionally, it is important that project managers understand the attributes that cause constructive conflicts for effective conflict management and overall project success.

Attributes that Promote Constructive Conflicts

The attributes that promote constructive project team conflicts are classified in two main categories. The first category is the team attributes. The category includes the characteristics of the team that is participating in the particular project. The second category is the project attributes. These attributes are related to the overall nature of the work of the particular project. 

Team attributes include:

The Size of the Project team- The size or number of project team members can cause arguments and conflicts within the project team. Large teams experience more conflicts due to diversity and individual ideological differences. Although large project teams are difficult to manage, it is recommended that a project team should have sufficient membership to ensure that every project process or activity has a team member responsible or accountable for the process for overall success of the project.

Functional Diversity- When a project team is derived from different departments of the business organization, constructive conflicts related to functions of each team member arise. However, a cross-functional team ensures the success of the project because ideas will be obtained from each department hence improving project outcomes.

Team Tenure- The period that a project will take causes team conflict because in long period projects there are members who are not consistent. However, inducing new team members overtime ensures fresh ideas are included in the project resulting to the overall project success (Porter and Lilly 1996).

Project attributes include:

Goal Uncertainty- In most projects, the key goal is clear hence making a direction for the team’s persistency, effort and attention. However, conflicts arise when the project goal or goals are not clear because each team member has a view or suggestion that may differ from others. Conflict due to goal uncertainty is important as it ensures that the project team gets time to evaluate the project once more to come up with clear goals hence enhancing project success (Porter and Lilly 1996).

Project Rewards- Rewards cause conflicts within team members especially when the rewards target individual members. However, when the rewards target the entire team, there will only be constructive conflicts aimed to make the project a success hence a reward for the entire team. 

Steps in Managing Project Team Conflicts

For the overall success of any particular project, there are three key steps that managers should apply to manage, control and resolve constructive project team conflicts.

  1. Allow the team members to have discussion and negotiations regarding an issue or aspect that causes conflict- this is the first step in team conflict management and it aims at providing time for the members to interact and share their ideas regarding the issue. Through the step, the team will narrow the conflict from individual perspectives to inter-group view hence providing a suitable solution to pick the best option for the success of the project.
  2. Create an effective communication channel. Communication is an important aspect as it enhances understanding within the project team (Greenberger 2016). When an issue arises, the team should know the right channel to use for a constructive decision regarding the issue at hand. Therefore, the project team will always use the channel to ensure each issue is resolved for the project success.
  3. Include the entire team in decision making. The project manager as a leader should ensure that the entire team participates in the final decision-making process over any project issue or conflict. If two inter groups or individuals do not agree on a certain issue, the project manager should seek the view and suggestions from each team member (Rahman, Nasrin and Akter 2017). Through the action, the final decision will be diverse, and it will satisfy the conflicting parties and the entire team. The step ensures cooperation and teamwork regardless of differences hence the success of the entire project.

Through the steps each team member will feel that they were actively involved in the project which will result in a constructive project team work and will ultimately ensure that the particular project effectively achieves its primary objectives.

Author: Asma Talal Hamdan


"Conflicts Of Legal Ideas And Concepts: Constructive And Destructive Aspects". 2018. LEX RUSSICA (РУССКИЙ ЗАКОН). doi:10.17803/1729-5920.2018.135.2.030-044.

"Dealing With Conflict In Project Teams | | Business Improvement Architects". 2018. Bia.Ca

Greenberger, Leonard S. 2016. "Effective Communications For Project Success". Remediation Journal 26 (2): 121-128. doi:10.1002/rem.21463.

Porter, Thomas W., and Bryan S. Lilly. 1996. "THE EFFECTS OF CONFLICT, TRUST, AND TASK COMMITMENT ON PROJECT TEAM PERFORMANCE". International Journal Of Conflict Management 7 (4): 361-376. doi:10.1108/eb022787.

Rahman, Md Mashiur, Salma Nasrin, and Mosammat Aysha Akter. 2017. "Illustrating Conflicts Among Project Stakeholders In Sustainable Project Management". Business And Management Horizons 5 (1): 30. doi:10.5296/bmh.v5i1.10856

Application for study

Interactive online: