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Theory X and Theory Y Managers

Douglas McGregor's theory of X and Y managers says that there are two kinds of managers: type X and type Y.

Type X managers think that all people are basically lazy and that unless they are threatened or in some way forced to do work, they will not do any work. These managers direct work to be done and do not allow very much participation in any decision making, because they feel that the participation by the workers would only lead to less work being done.

Type Y managers believe that people will do a good job for the sake of doing it. They believe in participative management and sharing information with the workers. These managers will also listen to problems that are brought up by their staff.

Theory X managers are good in situations that are either very favorable or very unfavorable, while type Y managers are good in normal types of projects where there are a moderate number of problems. This may explain why many military managers in combat situations use theory X type management. In a combat situation it is necessary to have orders carried out without question or debate. In projects that are in extreme difficulty, this type of manager has an advantage.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict occurs when one party to the conflict thinks that the other party to the conflict has done something to frustrate attainment of a goal or goals. The conflict is said to be resolved when the two parties have had their frustration lowered to an acceptable level.

Project teams and their stakeholders, like any other group, have many interdependent parts that have their own values or interests and goals. Each person in a group seeks to fulfill his or her own goals as well. In project management, one of the major accomplishments necessary for the project manager is the resolution of these differences. Since each member of the group wants to meet his or her own goals, it is sometimes difficult for each person to fully understand the goals of others in the group. The solution lies in the ability of the project manager to keep each member's activities from interfering with and frustrating the other members while allowing all other activities to take place and move the project toward its goal.

Many believe that conflict has a beneficial side. The argument is that if the organization is dynamic and striving toward difficult goals, there is bound to be conflict. If there is no conflict, it follows that the organization is not dynamic and striving. This is not necessarily the case in project management. Disagreements can be settled quickly and amicably without having conflict. The level of frustration in the disagreeing parties is a measure of the conflict. I believe that in a well-run project team it is possible to settle differences without creating frustration.

There are said to be five ways of resolving conflict:

1. Forcing

2. Smoothing

3. Compromise

4. Problem solving

5. Withdrawal

These five conflict-resolving methods have varying results as to the immediate effect and the long-term effect on the conflict resolution. They also have an effect on the temperament of the conflicting parties (Figures 5-7 and 5-8).


One way to resolve a conflict is for one party to force the other to agree. This is the kind of conflict resolution that happens when one person has power over another and

Figure 5-7. Conflict resolution styles.

Withdrawal Smoothing

Compromise Forcing

Problem solving


Provide solutions

Figure 5-8. Effects of conflict resolution styles.

Good for Good for

Personal Goals Relationships

Forcing High Low

Smoothing Low High

Compromising Medium Medium

Problem solving High High

Withdrawal Low Low exercises it. It amounts to the boss saying, ''OK, we have had our discussion, and now I will make the decision.'' This method of resolving the conflict results in a permanent solution. The solution, although permanent, might not be the best solution that might have been found, but it does save time, and right or wrong, the conflict is resolved. This type of resolution is not good for building teams. People's personal stakes in the decision, especially if the decision is found to be wrong, are frustrated.


Smoothing minimizes the disagreement by making differences seem less important. This kind of resolution occurs when either one of the persons disagreeing or another person in the group attempts to make the differences smaller than they seem. If the tactic is successful, one or both of the conflicting parties will think that the differences are more minor than they had seemed and will accept either a compromise or the group's acceptance of one of the alternatives.

This type of resolution is generally good for the group relations of the team. All of the members of the group are made to feel that the conflict was less important than originally thought. This type of resolution, however, does not lead to permanent solutions. The conflicting parties do not come to an agreement about what was accepted and what was not. At some time later, when the conflicting parties realize that the importance of their differences has been minimized, the conflict is likely to reappear and continue.


Compromise is similar to smoothing. Using this type of conflict resolution, each of the parties gives up something to reach a common ground. In this resolution the parties themselves agree to give up on some points but not others. In doing this they reach a common agreement that has relatively few points of disagreement. Compromise is sort of a middle-of-the-road kind of solution. Neither side wins or loses. Without a clear winner, neither of the sides in the conflict is enthusiastic about moving forward with the compromise plan. The effect on team building is neither good nor bad. The destructive-ness of the conflict is avoided, but the resolution results in something that neither side supported originally. If compromises are documented, and the parties really make them into firm agreements and stick to them, they become permanent solutions. Many times, as in smoothing the problem, the disagreeing parties will continue to disagree and try to implement the original ideas.

Problem Solving

In problem solving, a group is set up to prove one point or another right or wrong. This method of conflict resolution is based on the idea that all disagreements must have one correct solution. By having additional work on the disagreement, the facts will eventually be uncovered, and it will be clear which of the disagreeing parties is correct. This is actually the best way to resolve conflict. Once indisputable facts are discovered and added to the information available about the conflict, it is difficult for any of the participants to disagree further, and the conflict is resolved. This type of solution produces the best resolution of the conflict for the team. The resolution of the conflict becomes clear, and there is no need for further disagreement.


Withdrawal may be the worst way to resolve any conflict. In this type of resolution one group leaves the argument and retires. This is the same behavior that occurs when a small child says, ''I don't like the way you are playing this game. I am taking my ball and going home.'' This does not really solve the conflict; it merely postpones it to another day.

This type of resolution has a negative effect on the team. All of the team members feel badly about the end of the discussion and the withdrawal of one person or group.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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