Disputes or disagreements are inevitable when you have more than one person working on something. The best groups use disagreements as a source of inspiration for novel solutions. The worst disintegrate into name-calling and disaster.

The suggestions below should help you make the best of disputes.



Act Calmly
  • In disputes tempers and voices naturally rise. Consciously talk calmly.
  • Listen to what the other person says.
  • Assume that they are well-intentioned until proven wrong.
Classify the dispute

If it's a matter of intellectual disagreement then rational approaches using examination of the merits of the different opinions is likely to be helpful. Think of using:

  • Explicit statement of the "facts" that are under discussion - there are often quite erroneous perceptions.
  • Comparison of criteria.
  • Consideration of the consequences of each approach.
  • Examination of similar situations and what was done there - history.

If it's a matter of personality differences (often amount of work performed) resolving is often harder. It's certainly worth considering the same techniques as for intellectual disagreements. It's often helpful in addition to:

  • Use a third party mediator - another team member.
  • A cooling-off period.
  • Discussion of the "feelings" involved - usually with an agreement to let each person speak their piece while the other listens in silence.
Look For Compromise
Often there is a compromise between two opinions (particularly the intellectual ones) that will be better than either of the two alone. For personality disputes the compromise may leave each person feeling the resolution was fair even if they did not get everything they want.


Mistakes Teams Have Made

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Updated: 2/2/03