Managing Team Tensions: Strategies for Engineering Leaders

Limor Bergman Gross

Executive Coach at LBG Consulting Service Ltd



In this article, we will explore effective strategies for engineering leaders to address and resolve conflicts among team members. We will use a real-life scenario as a case study to provide practical insights and guidance. The scenario involves two senior staff engineers, Daniel and Sean, who have different approaches to a project and are experiencing tension as a result. The goal is to find a way to utilize both of their strengths and align their approaches to ensure the success of the project.

Understanding the Situation

The first step in addressing team tensions is to gain a clear understanding of the situation. In this case, Sarah, the project lead, has noticed tension between Daniel and Sean, who both believe they are the main architect of the project. Daniel has been complaining about the conflict, while Sean seems oblivious to it. This tension is causing misalignment and different answers in meetings, which is not conducive to the success of the project or the morale of the team.

Identifying the Conflict

The conflict in this scenario arises from the different approaches of Daniel and Sean. Daniel prefers a conservative, risk-mitigating approach, while Sean favors a fast-paced, trial-and-error approach. Both approaches have their merits, but they are in conflict with each other. The project goal is to migrate services with minimal downtime and no impact on customers. While time is important, zero downtime and customer impact take precedence.

Leveraging Different Perspectives

The key to resolving this conflict is to leverage the strengths of both engineers and find a way to align their approaches. Limor Bergman Gross, an external coach, suggests having a conversation with both Daniel and Sean to highlight the value of their different perspectives. The goal is to create a collaborative environment where both engineers can contribute their ideas and work towards a shared goal.

Mediating the Discussion

To facilitate a productive discussion, Sarah can initiate a conversation with Daniel and Sean, emphasizing the importance of their contributions and the need to find a way to work together effectively. The focus should be on the project goals and priorities, rather than blaming one engineer or favoring one approach over the other. Sarah can encourage both engineers to share their thoughts and brainstorm potential solutions that incorporate elements of both approaches.

Encouraging Collaboration

The goal of the discussion is to encourage collaboration and find a middle ground that combines the strengths of both engineers. Sarah can emphasize the importance of utilizing both approaches to achieve the project's objectives. By highlighting the benefits of each approach and the value of their collaboration, Sarah can foster a positive and open-minded environment where both engineers feel heard and valued.

Involving Distinguished Engineers

If the initial discussion does not lead to a resolution, Sarah can involve the distinguished engineers who oversee the project's technical direction. Their input and guidance can help in making a final decision if necessary. However, the ideal outcome is for Daniel and Sean to find a way to work together and align their approaches without the need for external intervention.

Leading by Influence

As a leader, Sarah's role is to lead by influence rather than authority. This means empowering the engineers to resolve the conflict themselves and find a solution that works for both of them. Sarah can provide guidance, facilitate discussions, and offer feedback, but the ultimate goal is for Daniel and Sean to take ownership of the conflict and work towards a resolution.

Dealing with Defensive Reactions

If Daniel or Sean become defensive during the discussion, Sarah can reframe the conversation to focus on the positive aspects of their contributions. By emphasizing the value of their different perspectives and the opportunity for growth and collaboration, Sarah can help alleviate defensiveness and encourage a more open-minded approach.


Managing team tensions is a critical skill for engineering leaders. By understanding the underlying conflict, leveraging different perspectives, and fostering collaboration, leaders can help resolve conflicts and create a more productive and harmonious work environment. It is important to approach conflicts with a positive mindset, appreciating the strengths of each team member and working towards a shared goal.

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Limor Bergman Gross

Executive Coach at LBG Consulting Service Ltd

Engineering LeadershipLeadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsLeadership Training

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