Management, compliance & auditing

How to Deal with Conflict: Good Cooperation in an IT Company

November 29, 2012 by Lucas Stolarski


  1. Introduction
  2. Company success vs. cooperation inside the company
  3. Forms of conflict
  4. Reasons for bad cooperation

a) Mentality depending on the positions

b) Understanding of own role in the company

c) The most common sources and symptoms of conflict

d) Examples of bad cooperation and how to avoid them

  1. Advice for when you are Project Manager
  2. Five ways to solve the conflict
  1. Introduction:

Conflict management is a normal, everyday managment responsibility. Those who manage larger teams have to spend a lot of time on the management aspect of the confrontational situation with a view to long-term solutions, suitable for business. Conflict management is an integral part of effective management. Surveys show that the average manager spends 20% of their daily time trying to deal with conflicts. Although conflicts are normal in the workplace, it is important to quickly identify the source and look for solutions that permanently eliminate the cause. It is important to quickly capture and defeat the harmful aspects of the conflict, moreover, try to find benefits that may appear in this difficult situation.

2. Company success vs cooperation inside the company

There is very close relationship between commercial success of products of an IT company and good cooperation inside of this company. Success is not only thanks to great employees or innovative ideas. Do you know how many innovative ideas were fallen before implementation? Yes, all of this stuff is about good cooperation in an IT company. This issue has a direct impact on company success. Different things such as talented programmers, designers, great marketing, etc may be blocked by each other.

3. Forms of conflict

Conflict in the workplace can take many forms. But no matter how it looks, it always requires the presence of at least two parties to the conflict. From the perspective of management, the best option is to identify the parties and separate them from each other initially. The first step is to accept that it appeared at all, calling it by name, and to determine who is involved in it.

Sometimes it is difficult to realize that the problems may be ingrained in irreconcilable objectives. Each employee has their own specific objectives for the department or organization. These goals may be different from the objectives of another person in another department. It is always easier to see themselves as “fine,” and a person who is a threat as the enemy. Although there are reasons and causes of conflicts and their consequences, in terms of organization, it is best to manage the conflict in order to try to find a solution that will be satisfying for both parties, but will also be beneficial for the company.

Conflict in the company is something normal. This is because each brings to the team of employees their beliefs, goals and values. It adds variety to the organization through dialogue and making any decisions. Unfortunately, it can also affect the “inflammation” between workers and may cause communication difficulties. But such a situation is to be resolved.

Conflicts often spread in time. This is the case when the sides of conflict hold negative attitudes. Then they try to avoid each other, which reinforces the conflict or tends to clash every time they have the opportunity.

For any manager, it is important to resolve the conflict as soon as possible. Sometimes it’s just better to leave things to themselves. If the manager feels that he will not be able to deal with the conflict, perhaps it is better not to meddle in the initial stage and wait until everything blows over itself. Unfortunately, most of the problems will not solve themselves, and the growing anger can overshadow a rational assessment of the reasons and causes of the conflict, thereby strengthening a vicious circle.

4. Reasons for bad cooperation

There are a few main reasons for bad cooperation. Let’s focus on the ones which most often occur.

a) Mentality depending on the positions

First, the most primary thing we should remember about is mentality depending on the positions. Let’s divide employees by most popular roles:

– Developer – he’s focused only on the actual goal. We shouldn’t require a broader view of the problem. He does only what he has to do – without any economical, marketing etc. factor. Conclusion is simple – we should formulate tasks for him with details. The developer will not do more than he must.

– Quality Assurance Specialist – generally we can describe his mentality in an opposite way than the developer. His approach to problems is wider. He can (at least he should) observe things and problems in different ways from the rest of the people. This attribute (if it is used properly) may give lot of benefits.

– Marketing Specialist – focused solely on the measurable benefits of the product. This can be done in many ways – by examining the market demand for the product, looking for niches, analyzing competition. In the process of production of the product they will focus on low cost, but never thinks that something in technical terms cannot be done.

– Project Manager – For him, the most important are things like bringing the project to the end and deadlines. Often a combination of the first and second thing is possible by omission of many bugs which require improvement to extend deadline. PM cannot let that happen.

b) Understanding of own role in the company

Theoretically, the best chance for success is if the department does not block any other and does not go beyond their duties and powers. It sounds corny, but usually the situation does not look so good. The easiest seems to be collaboration between developers and testers. The developer programs, the tester tests. Everything is controlled by the iterative system of work. This is usually not a problem. Problems may start much earlier.

Badly, carelessly planned intervals in the project may have effects in the least expected moment. Mainly the cause of failure in this regard is reckless underestimation of the specific tasks. It is better to reserve more time for each task rather than giving up some features or less accurate testing, because time does not allow for more. This is an example of a situation in which the Project Manager should prevail. If the problem appears after all, when you should think over the expansion of the team a few Devs and QA, or proposing paid overtime or additional vacation days. Resignation from part of functionality or many bugs in the final version are the worst possible solutions.

c) The most common sources and symptoms of conflict

· Lack of respect in communication

· Irritability

· Strife

· Changes in the actions and reactions

· Formation of cliques

· Reluctance to cooperate

· Ignoring or destroying the ideas of other people

· Significant changes in the organization

· Personal prejudices

· Confusion

· Stress

· Indifference

· Organization’s policy

· Some situations with suppliers or customers

d) Examples of bad cooperation and how to avoid them

Below you can find some examples that will help you realize the negative effects that entail a partnership in the company.


    The effects of delays: If any improvement is constantly rejected and corrected (and so on) and the process of creating a product is prolonged. Now imagine that the product is a computer game. Of course, the faithful fans of the series will wait and understand release procrastination. But if it takes a very long time, certainly you may find that the engine and the graphics are already so outdated that in no way match the contemporary products. It is quite a common phenomenon in the market – remember Doom3? Premiere delayed it for a few years – as a result, the game looked nothing like other games released in the same time.

How to avoid them? If a problem notoriously repeats and any amendment does not seem to deal with the problem, it is tempting to gather large groups (eg, brainstorming) to jointly draw conclusions. After selecting the best solution, we will not only have motivation but we have a feeling that with the whole team will find a solution to any situation.

· The effects of too rare meeting summarizing the previous work: The effect may be one – no one really knows what the other members of the team are working on. When everything comes to light, it is just a great surprise and a lot of wasted time.

How to avoid them? Use of a good project management system. If the project is larger and more complex, consider a job in a large system like Jira and TFS. If it is less than a whole bunch of cheap tools so that everything will be known (Basecamp, ClockingIt etc).

No constructive criticism: We learn that our work is (to put it mildly) poor. If you have not found out why, and what you need to do a better job, a criticism not matter. We repeat the same mistakes all the time, and after a few such behaviors our motivation to work drastically decreases, which will only aggravate all the work in the project.

How to avoid them? When pointing out someone else’s mistakes, always give all the details – what exactly it is done wrong, what could have been done better. A very important thing is to give a few things that have been done in a good way – there is nothing worse than the feeling that everything you’ve done, it is suitable only for the trash.

5. Advice for when you are Project Manager

If you are a Project Manager, primarily take care of the basic needs of workers. Realize first that all your employees want to feel important and want to be treated in a unique way, and not just be a cog in the machine that is assigned to carry out specific tasks.

Proceeding from this assumption will be easier for you to see how important fair and decent treatment is for each of your employees. People are naturally very sensitive to any sign of injustice. So keep in mind that even if some of your subordinates receive more sympathy than others, try not to show it externally.

A sense of justice and humane treatment is also important when it comes to rewarding your employees. And while most companies treat the amount of remuneration as strictly confidential, in many cases, it appears that the information about the remuneration of the company revolves. So pay close attention to whether your employees’ salaries are adequate for years worked, aptitudes, experience, education, responsibilities and effects. You can also have a tendency, like most managers, to the fact that the new employees to offer higher wages than your long running subordinates. Unfair treatment in terms of pay for work can cause conflicts in the team, because anger resulting from differences in the amount of wages of people with similar competencies may lead to showing a colleague and not a decision maker.

Another important element to prevent the emergence of conflicts in the team is to provide concurrent and clear message to all employees. For the proper functioning of the team, it is important that each of its members know what his duty is, at what level in the hierarchy of the organization is, and what rules to follow. Make sure to have the opportunity to talk with your employees face to face. This promotes more open discussion and has a strongly positive effect on the relationship with the manager, motivation and commitment.

If you take care of it, to have a stable ground in the team by using the tips above, the next step will be to take appropriate action and integration, which will be aimed at how best to rip your team.

6. Five ways to solve the conflict

In the literature lists five main strategies of conflict resolution:

1. Avoidance

Avoidance is sometimes the best course of action. Sometimes “time” will fix the problem alone, and any attempt to resolve themselves can only worsen the situation. But avoidance only works sometimes, unfortunately, rarely. Avoidance is often a manifestation of the lack of conflict management skills. One who avoids conflict, builds the rationale reasons, avoiding meetings and talks on the subject, hoping that the problem will disappear itself.

2. Adaptation

Adaptation is a strategy that rarely leads to solve the problem. At the start, the adaptation leads to better understanding of the problem and consequently has not found any solution of the crisis. Avoiding and adaptation are similar techniques. Both strategies are based on the fear of tackling the problem directly. Avoidance and adaptation techniques “pretend” that the problem does not exist. Sometimes it’s better to sail to the top of the conflict than to continue in secret.

3. Fighting

Fighting is the opposition to adaptation. A manager forces sides of the conflict to find a solution and resolve the dispute. This method can even be aggressive. This way, unfortunately, rarely solves the problem, but instead leads to a deepening of the conflict, aggression and frustration increases. People are forced to accept solutions which they have not chosen.

4. Compromise

Compromise is often referred to as the best way to resolve the conflict. Bringing the two parties to the agreement we are looking for the best way out of the situation. The compromise, however, is also associated with the fact that both sides need to something important for them to give up. This happens in cases where the rules manager determines a compromise.

5. Solving the problem

To solve the problem with success we must agree to the following beliefs:

  • Cooperation is better than competition
  • Parties can trust each other
  • Differences and misunderstandings can be minimized
  • It is possible to find mutually acceptable solutions

On the basis of these beliefs a manager should try to get together with the parties to try to find a way to resolve the conflict. The probability of achieving a good solution is greater when the parties to the conflict will lead the manager only to a certain point, and consequently they do indicate possible ways out of the crisis. Workers who are in conflict can only come to an agreement when they realize that finding a solution is in their interest.

A manager engaging in solving problems should emphasize how much he trusts that they will be able to resolve this conflict. Both sides will then feel the weight of responsibility for the process of curbing the resolution of the conflict.

To resolve the conflict, all parties must recognize that the problem exists. The manager should create an atmosphere of trust and convince employees that conflict is normal. The problem should be resolved with the manager as a mediator. Then, the parties should identify all of the best solutions to the problem and under select one. The manager should help the parties implement the best constructively agreed upon resolution of the conflict.

Posted: November 29, 2012
Lucas Stolarski
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Lucas Stolarski studied Macrofaculty (Automatic Control, Robotics, Electronics, Telecommunication and Computer Science) in Silesian University of Technology. From 2006 he started to design websites and during studies he started a web design business with his friend. For 2 years he designed many websites and attracted many satisfied customers. Now he is working in a quite large (over 500 employees) IT company in Poland as a User Experience Designer. He is prototyping and designing User Interfaces for different devices (iPhones, iPads, Android devices, web and desktop apps, ATMs, buses and so on...). He was an organizer of the biggest UX/usability event in Poland - WUD Silesia. Sometimes he is a speaker at local events about IT (i.e. Freelance Camp).