Identifying Different Conflict Management Styles

Conflict is an element of human interaction. While people are not always going to agree on how things are done, effective conflict management can resolve the issue. Managers can mediate conflict between employees or customers by using conflict management styles. 

 

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What are conflict management styles? 

Conflict management is the process of addressing a problem between two or more parties. Generally, the goal is to reach a solution that benefits all parties in some way. There are several styles of conflict management you can use to address conflict in your workplace. Before you select which conflict management style to use, consider these questions: 

  • What do you value: the relationship or the outcome? 
  • What are the consequences of taking action? 
  • Do I have the resources to address this conflict? 

The answers to these questions will help you assess which type of conflict management to use. 

Related: How to Manage Employees

 

Right from the start: different conflict management styles

The five styles of conflict management each have three tenants: the relationship between the parties involved, the outcome of addressing the conflict and the resources necessary to resolve the conflict. Identify the value of each of these tenants for conflicts you encounter in order to select the best conflict management style for the situation. Here are the five styles of conflict management: 

 

1. Accommodation

The accommodation style of conflict management puts the needs of others before your own. This means that the relationship you have with the other party is more important than the outcome of the conflict: 

  • Relationship: The relationship between the parties is unaffected.
  • Outcome: The other party receives a positive outcome.
  • Resources: Accommodation style conflict management does not require resources like time or money. 

 

2. Avoidance

The avoidance style of conflict management ignores the conflict completely. Instead of addressing the issue and trying to find a solution, you simply pretend the problem does not exist. 

  • Relationship: The relationship between the parties is unaffected.  
  • Outcome: There is no outcome as the conflict is not addressed. 
  • Resources: Avoidance style conflict management does not require resources like time or money. 

 

3. Compromise

The compromising style of conflict management aims for a solution in which all parties are partly satisfied. Usually, no one involved in the conflict gets everything they desire in the outcome, but everyone gets something that makes them happy. 

  • Relationship: The relationship between the parties is unaffected.
  • Outcome: Both parties receive a positive outcome. 
  • Resources: Compromise style conflict management may require resources like time and money. 

 

4. Collaboration

The collaboration style of conflict management finds a solution that meets all the needs of those involved. This is a style to use if both the relationship and the outcome are important. 

  • Relationship: The relationship between the parties is unaffected.
  • Outcome: Both parties receive a positive outcome. 
  • Resources: Collaboration style conflict management may require resources like time and money. 

 

5. Competition

The competition style of conflict management puts your needs above the other party’s needs. This style is used when the relationship does not matter but the outcome does. 

  • Relationship: The relationship between the parties is negatively affected. 
  • Outcome: Your party receives a positive outcome. 
  • Resources: Competition style conflict management may require resources like time and money. 

 

The cost of ineffective conflict resolution

Conflict management is a necessary skill for managers. Employees or customers will come to you seeking assistance in resolving an issue. Poor conflict resolution skills can lead to the following: 

  • Poor management: Conflict resolution demands a strong manager capable of addressing difficult situations. It will be a challenge to manage employees if you cannot handle conflict appropriately. 
  • Unmet goals: Time and energy will be wasted on conflict rather than meeting team or company goals. 
  • Negative relationships: Conflict left unresolved can lead to negative relationships between team members or even between management and employees.
  • Lack of trust: Managers who are incapable of handling conflict may lose the trust of their subordinates. 
  • Low morale: Employees involved in a long-standing conflict will experience lowered morale. 
  • Decreased productivity: Employees with low-morale, issues with their coworkers and distrust of management will demonstrate decreased productivity. 
  • Employee turnover: Eventually, employees may even leave the company due to poor management and consistent conflict. 

Related: How to Reduce Employee Turnover

 

Frequently asked questions about conflict management

Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions regarding conflict management styles: 

 

Should I always use the same conflict management style? 

The conflict management style implemented should change depending on the issue. Consider the value of the relationship between the two parties, the importance of getting the outcome you desire and the resources, usually time and money, you are willing to put into resolving the conflict. If you consider these factors with each conflict you will find one style of conflict management better suited to handle the disagreement than the others. 

 

Is one conflict management style better than another? 

There is no one conflict management style that is always better than the others. However, there is usually a conflict management style that fits your needs the best depending on the situation. Remember to evaluate your values before embarking on conflict resolution to ensure a satisfactory outcome. 

 

Which conflict management style is a win-win? 

The collaboration style of conflict management is often referred to as a win-win strategy since the goals are to meet the needs of all parties. Both parties win in that their needs are met in the outcome and the relationship is maintained. However, collaboration can take time and money since finding a solution that meets everyone’s needs can be a long process. 

 

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