Conflict Management Styles

Making Conflicts Work for You

Conflicts arise in every facet of life and the workplace is no exception.  Managers report that almost one whole day of their work week is consumed with conflict issues.  There are a host of reasons for conflict.  Different goals, priorities or personalities may account for some of it.  Conflict can happen when there is competition for scarce resources.  The list goes on and on. A lot of time and satisfaction can be gained when individuals view conflict as a way to understand different points of view.  Looking at a situation strategically and deciding the desired outcome is the first step.  Next, picking the right style to address the resolution is essential.

Five ways to handle conflict

There are five ways of responding to conflict as Thomas and Kilmann found in their research and went on to develop an assessment that indicates how often we use each one.  Individuals must decide if they want their needs met or they are willing to have the others’ need met in a particular conflict.  The five conflict handling styles are:

1) Competing

“My way or the highway”  This takes care of your needs when the issue is of utmost importance and you must take a stand. In this case, you win/the other loses.

2) Accommodating

“It would be my pleasure” This takes care of the other’s needs and is appropriate when you want to establish good will.

3) Avoiding

“I will think about it tomorrow”  No needs are met and that works when there might need to be a “cooling” off time or someone wants to take a “wait and see” approach.

4) Collaborating

“Two heads are better than one” This is a win/win solution although each person will come up with a very different outcome than what they expected.

5) Compromise

“Let’s make a deal” This win some/lose some approach provides a quick way to split the difference.

Getting the results you want from conflict

The correct style depends on what you want to happen in the situation.  So it is important that you are strategic in dealing with conflict.  You must use the BOSS Model: B-Balcony: Go to the balcony and observe objectively what is happening (Thank you, William Ury, for this great image) O-Outcome: Pick the result that you want. S-Strategy:  Make a plan S-Style: Pick the style.

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument is a great way to find out if you are over relying on one style, using an incorrect one, or never using some of the others. Think back to your last conflict and see if your style worked or if you could have used another one to get what you wanted out of the particular situation.  Most importantly, ask yourself “What did I learn from this conflict?'”