In order for the project manager to handle conflicts successfully, he must following the below steps (in order):
- Understand the root cause of the conflict: Most of the times, the cause of the conflict is not what it appears to be. Often the real cause has to do with ego, envy, personal issues between team members.
- Distinguish if it's a positive conflict or a negative conflict. Positive conflicts are good and need to be addressed, and they result in higher productivity, negative conflicts affect the performance of both members and potentially the whole team. Negative conflicts should be addressed.
- Identify the type of each individual in the conflict, is he the predator or the prey?
- Now use one of the following approaches to resolve the conflic:
- Make both parties confront each other: This is where both parties air their concerns to each other under the supervision of the project manager. Both parties try to find a common ground and try to resolve their conflicts without the interference of anyone else.
- Bridge the gap between the conflicting parties: If the previous step fails, then get involved personally and try to bridge the gap between the conflicting parties. Your role at this point is a mediator. You have to ensure that both parties offer a compromise and both parties are satisifed with the compromise they offer and they receive.
- Force the conflict resolution: If you feel there is no way for a compromise between the two parties, you have to force a resolution. Forcing means that the two parties have to work with each other, whether they like it or not, and the compromises that you decide should be offered by both parties.
You may also avoid the conflict altogehter, and pretend it doesn't even exist, but beware, leaving things like this to fester can cost you dearly even on the short term (resources quitting, very low productivity, sour work environment, etc...)
Whatever you do, just ensure you don't pick a side against the other, or else you will lose both persons' respect.