Captain of Rivals

February 13, 2024

Dear Conflict Coach–

I’m leading my group project for class. My best friend is on the same team and early on in the project complained to me that I didn’t give them tasks and roles that allow them to demonstrate their work to the professor. So, I gave my friend a role to manage the project, which includes coordinating with everyone to keep them on track. The problem is, now the rest of the team thinks my friend is really micromanaging everyone and the rest of the team is coming to me complaining, since I’m the team leader. How do I bring the team together to produce the best project without publicly criticizing my friend and ruining my friendship?

–Captain of Rivals

Dear Captain–

It’s great that you recognize that leadership involves conflict management across multiple dimensions. Conflict is an inevitable part of our personal and professional lives, and it can arise due to various reasons such as differences in values, attitudes, needs, expectations, perceptions, communication styles, and personalities. Here are some steps you can take to lead your team and your friend through the issue:

  1. Find a space in which everyone can contribute their needs and wants. Frame that conflict is a natural and normal part of group work, and that the conflict can help the group generate new ideas.
  2. Invite people to frame what they are seeking going forward, not just what their concerns are. Keeping the conversation focused on how people want to work on going forward, rather than what has “gone wrong” can help people avoid adversarial conversations. This can help the problem-solving focus on people vs. the problem, rather than people vs. each other. 
  3. Once you have identified what people are seeking, you can identify commonalities that the team shares for its goals. Find a common ground: Look for a solution that benefits everyone. Try to find a common ground that everyone can agree upon.
  4. Where common ground isn’t immediately found, seek to better understand why those points are important for people and creative ways they can be achieved.
  5. Communicate effectively: Communication is key to resolving conflicts. Make sure everyone is on the same page and understands the expectations, responsibilities, and overall outcome (getting a good grade on the project). 
  6. Encourage collaboration: Encourage everyone to work together and share information to seek the best resolution. Remind everyone of the overall goal and how it can best be achieved. 
  7. Seek help if needed: If the conflict is too complex to resolve on your own, seek help from your professor or another administrator. 


When bringing a group together to resolve conflicts, it is important to remain patient and empathic. Recognize that none of you understand the conflict fully and that working together you will understand it more fully. The steps outlined above should help your group move forward.

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