Posted by Lora Boiago on Jun 6, 2013 2:50:00 PM

            Training Consultants: Dealing with Conflict                                                                                                                Training consultants 

If you work with people, you will experience conflict at some point.  Conflict is a unavoidable and inevitable fact of life.  Whenever two or more are gathered, there is the potential for conflict.  This is especially true in the competitive fast-paced, deadline driven environment of today’s business world.  It may be that, at some point in your career, you will be called on to resolve or mediate a conflict.

It is not surprising that managing conflict does not come naturally to most people.  In fact, many find conflict awkward, and most of us get very nervous or anxious when it comes to dealing with conflict.  We’ve extracted a lesson on ‘dealing with conflict’ from a custom management training program that was put together by one of our training consultants. Read on to learn what office place conflict is, the different types of conflict management styles and tips on how use each style when dealing with conflict!

What is Conflict?

Merriam-Webster defines conflict as “Competitive or opposing action of incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands; the opposition of persons or forces that gives rise to dramatic action.”

Not all conflict is bad.  Instead of thinking about it as good or bad, let’s think about it as either healthy or unhealthy.  When you look at the definition of conflict and you see the phrase: “opposition of persons or forces that gives rise to dramatic action” – remember that the “dramatic action” can either be positive, creative or destructive.

There may be several factors that are contributing to the conflict, including misperceptions, poor communication, differing priorities and unresolved previous conflict.  Regardless of the source of conflict, we have a choice to make regarding our response. Each conflict situation provides an opportunity to choose a style of responding to the situation.

Most of us have not had the chance to learn the skill of proper conflict resolution.  Most of us manage conflict based on what we learned early on in our home environment, which is not always the most effective method to implement at work.

With old business management models, it was expected for managers to intervene and handle conflict between employees.  Times have now changed, however.  In today’s business environment, the expectation is for team members -with the assistance of managers- are best to resolve conflict amongst each other.

In this blog, our training consultants provide concepts for dealing with conflict that can be used both when you are directly involved in conflict or when you are asked to mediate/intervene in a situation between others.

Conflict Management Styles

Most of us have a preferred style of managing conflict.  This preference makes up our conflict management style.  Learning to understand our own style, as well as the styles of those around us, will allow us to be more effective when we find ourselves involved in conflict.

Temperament plays a part in that preference.  Some of us like to confront a conflict immediately, while others prefer to avoid conflict at all costs. Although we may not be able to do much to change our personality, we can change our behavior.  This means that, regardless of the style you have used in the past, you can be flexible in the way you cope with conflict today by choosing the appropriate style given the situation, person or circumstance.

According to Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann there are five styles for dealing with conflict.  Most of us have a preferred style of managing conflict.  This preference makes up our conflict management style. Learning to understand our own style as well as the styles of others makes us more effective when we find ourselves involved in conflict.


1. Avoidance

This style tries to avoid conflict at all costs, including withdrawing from problems or suppressing differences.  It might take the form of diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better time or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.  It could include such behaviors as indifference, resignation and unconditional surrender.

This style can be useful when …

This style is appropriate when you or the other person needs a “cool” down period.  However, our training consultants highlight the importance of following up to resolve the issue because it will most likely resurface.


2. Accommodation

When using this style, an individual neglects his/her own concerns to satisfy the needs of the other person. This style could involve obeying orders when one would prefer not to, denying or avoiding differences, or yielding to another person’s point of view.

This style can be useful when …

This style is most useful and appropriate when the other person has previously accommodated you, or if the issue is more important to the other person than to you and you want to maintain or improve the relationship.


3. Competition

For this style, winning is important. It provides the individual a sense of pride and achievement. This is a power-oriented style and in order to win the individual may attack, pressure, overwhelm or intimidate the other person. It may include “standing up for your rights” and achieving goals at all costs.

This style can be useful when …

This style is appropriate during an emergency when there are compliance issues because of safety or legal reasons. Use of competition usually promotes and “I win/you lose” attitude.


4. Compromise

This style is likely to give something up to create a mutually acceptable situation. An individual using this style is willing to sacrifice part of his/her goals and relationships to find a solution. It means splitting the differences to be fair, looking for tradeoffs, and exchanging concessions.

This style can be useful when …

This style is appropriate for the same reason as Accommodation. Both sides give and both sides get just enough so all end up satisfied. The downside is someone usually feels they gave too much or did not receive enough.


5. Collaboration

This style tries to recognize all interests and work toward mutual gain. It may take the form of analyzing a disagreement to learn from each other’s insights or resolving a situation that would have left the parties competing for resources. Although this style can be more time consuming, it takes into consideration the fact that all involved must get their needs met to some degree for an equal and fair outcome.

This style can be useful when …

This style is most appropriate in just about any situation, but it requires more time and energy to get input from all so you must make sure there is time to implement it. It usually creates a Win/Win.

Keep in mind that while there is no one style that works best for all conflicts, those conflicts that are most important are best handled through collaboration.

Download our FREE Conflict Management Guide.  This guide provides an overview of the different management styles and tips on how to defuse an angry person or handle conflict when you are in the mediator’s seat.


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