Conflict in the project workplace : A coach’s perspective

High conflict levels unbearable

Conflict levels were so high at work that Paula had reached the point where she just wanted to resign her contract and leave it all behind her.  She knew that this was not a good move – she liked the company she was working with – “it was just a few people that were causing me the problems”.

What she hadn’t really understood (but her Employment Agent was alerted to) was that the problem was bigger than this.  Paula was beginning to get a reputation amongst managers and her peers as somebody who was just too difficult to work with – too high maintenance.  As one manager commented – “she seems to be good at her job – good at getting things done – but she really does rub others peoples’ backs up”.

Paula agreed to be involved in a coaching experience instigated by her Employment Agent to see if a resolution could be found.

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Project manager: accountable for what?

As a job profiling consultant specialising in project management, I often hear questions like,Responsibility-ahead-Blog-14 ‘Who is responsible for…?’ and ‘Am I responsible for…?’ As questions, they seem straightforward enough, but further consideration reveals the complexity that can underlie them. Perhaps the questioner is just filling an acceptable gap in knowledge, or a check on understanding, but the question may also be reflecting more deep-seated management, or indeed company culture related problems:

  • confusion – nobody is clear who is responsible for what, and therefore who is going to take what action
  • fear – of having to take on responsibilities for which one is not properly equipped
  • anxiety – at having to be accountable for the discharge of the responsibility
  • concern – at the possibility of having to be accountable, without having discharged the responsibility oneself
  • anger – at having to take on responsibility that one feels should be discharged by someone else for a variety of reasons
  • frustration – trying to find out who is responsible in order to get action taken, make a complaint or obtain redress
  • ignorance – of the way in which responsibilities have been delegated or distributed and therefore who should be discharging them
  • obfuscation – when debates about who is responsible result in, or are used to explain, delays and inaction.

Perhaps you recognise some of these?

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Is this why South Africans make great project managers?

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One of the delights of taking part in the Success Stories Shared initiative is that you get to hear the stories from projects managers across a whole range of disciplines

I always start the session by asking the manager how they got into project management.  Invariably it turns out to be by chance or by some convoluted series of career and job moves.  Indeed, in my entire career of coaching and interviewing project managers – I’ve only met one person, a woman – who from school had set her mind on being a project manager.  She is now one of the youngest Partners in Deloitte’s!

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Are you getting value from your risk management approaches?

Most portfolio offices collect information on risks (and sometimes issues) but the risk statements supplied by projects are often unfocused and poorly defined. It seems that while many project managers can tell us what a risk is, few really understand the concept of risk and how to get real value from the risk practices they apply.

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