13 – Collaborative Writing

Strategies for Handling/Preventing Conflict and Challenges

Suzan Last; Candice Neveu; and Kalani Pattison

As any one who has worked on a group project can attest, challenges can arise when working in a team. Conflicts within a team  often they begin as a result of poor communication and weak focus. Some ways to handle these challenges include the following:

Designate a project manager. The project manager will act as the hub for communication and tasks. This person helps provide direction and guidance for the team. A project manager should be someone who has earned the team’s respect and who can be persuasive and tactful. Project management is actually its own discipline and an area of expertise. A project manager may be assigned by a supervisor, elected by team members, or rotated among team members.

Ensure the goal is clear. A team is governed by a specific goal or goals that everyone works to achieve. It is important that each goal is clearly understood and agreed upon by each team member.

Establish team expectations. As a team, determine the rules by which the team will operate. These rules should include expectations around time commitments, meetings, attendance, communication, decision making, contributions, and mechanisms to warn and/or fire a team member, or to quit a team. These expectations should also take into account cooperation and communication with stakeholders: people who are invested in the business/project/team and have an interest in the outcome. Investment is not limited to money and can include other forms of support, such as time, or affiliations such as personal or professional relationships and partnerships.

Assign responsibilities. As part of the breakdown of tasks, members should be assigned responsibility for certain tasks, which means that they are the primary leads in preventing and addressing issues that come up in that area.

Set agendas for meetings and keep minutes. To ensure that team meeting time is useful and achieves its purpose, plan an agenda for each meeting to help keep everyone on task. In addition, have someone take minutes to record decisions that are made. This record helps prevent repetition and ensures that work actually gets done.

Determine the timing for tasks. Task timing involves two aspects: the duration for completing the task and the timing of the task in relation to the other tasks. Typically, tasks take longer than you think they will, so it is often better to add 25% to your duration estimate. The timing of each task is important to figure out because some tasks can be completed concurrently, but others may have to be sequenced. Professionals often use Gantt Charts to outline these tasks and the time they will take within the overall project scale.[1] See Chapter 18 for more information.

Manage communications. If a problem arises with someone on the team, the project manager should speak privately to the person and clearly indicate what needs to change and why. The focus should be on the behavior, not on the person’s character. Issues should be dealt with quickly rather than left to deteriorate further. If this does not solve the problem, then try other approaches. See McCahan et al. “Management Strategies” for more information on communications management.[2]

This text was derived from

Last, Suzan, with contributors Candice Neveu and Monika Smith. Technical Writing Essentials: Introduction to Professional Communications in Technical Fields. Victoria, BC: University of Victoria, 2019. https://pressbooks.bccampus.ca/technicalwriting/. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

  1. Leslie C. Perelman, Edward Barrett, and James Paradis, “Timetables: Gantt Charts,” The Mayfield Handbook of Technical & Scientific Writing (Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1997), accessed August 11, 2020, http://web.mit.edu/course/21/21.guide/grf-ttab.htm.
  2. Susan McCahan, Phil Anderson, Mark Kortschot, Peter E. Weiss, Kimberly A. Woodhouse, “Management Strategies,” in Designing Engineers: An Introductory Text (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2015), 247-252.


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