Dear PM Advisor. February 18, 2013

Dear PM Advisor, What's the difference between smoothing and avoiding and the difference between compromising and collaborating? There seems to be too many different conflict management techniques.

Compromiser in Connecticut.

Dear Compromiser,

I agree. What happened to the old days of conflict management when it was 'My way or the highway?' I've seen a lot of time wasted in consensus building and political correctness. But then I've never been known for my patience. Still, these conflict management techniques come up in the PMP exam so it's nice to know what they are. So let's look at them. I used the Personality Explorers website for their official definitions, examples, advantages and disadvantages. Click here for more details.

But the cheat-sheet answers appear below.

Forcing: Make other party use your solution

Collaborating: Solve root cause and find a solution that helps everyone (Win-win)

Compromising: Both parties give up something for solution

Withdrawing: Walk away from the conflict (Avoiding)

Smoothing: Give up. Let the other party win (Accommodating)

Each conflict management style has its pluses and minuses. It depends on if you want speed or long-lasting effects. Is this a big conflict or a small one? Do you want to work with this person again? You'll use a very different conflict management technique when asking for a raise from your boss than when negotiating for a car from a used car salesman.

Below I've plotted the speed of using each of these techniques versus the long- or short-term effectiveness of the solution. As expected, the quick methods result in the shortest lasting solutions. Sometimes, that's OK, like walking away when your opponent is getting overheated and coming back at another time when temperatures have cooled.

Read the full article for all the pluses and minuses and have all five of these techniques in your tool-kit to use at the right time.

Good luck,

PM Advisor

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