Have you ever disagreed with someone about something and had to resort to conflict management? Probably once or twice, right?
Disputes are happening all around us. There are so many differing opinions and beliefs across the world it’s nearly impossible to avoid conflict at all times. But even though these disagreements arise, it doesn’t mean the individuals with opposing views can’t find common ground.
When it comes to issues in the workplace, conflict management is the best way for a leader to resolve issues and fix everything from crippled communication to pauses in productivity. But to do that, the manager must first determine his own conflict management style to know the strategy they must follow to reach a positive outcome that brings an end to the dispute.
What is Conflict Management?
Any time the interests, perceptions, priorities, or objectives of more than one individual on a team contradict, a certain level of friction starts to come between members of the group. This can lead to resentment, bitterness, and disinterest in their work. If unchecked, these conflicts can cause lapses in productivity, teamwork, and the ability to reach milestones or deadlines.
While these all sound like issues any manager would like to avoid at all costs, contrasting opinions among your group isn’t always a bad thing.
Believe it or not, conflict in the workplace is a vital aspect of your company’s ability to grow and develop. The only requirement is that the manager implements conflict resolution strategies to maintain order and direction as issues, disputes, and disagreements arise.
The concept of conflict management covers a variety of techniques designed to help teams settle their differing views and continue to work together in harmony. This often means a team leader must recognize their conflict management style. When they know the way they’re able to assist their team through this process, everything can get back on track.
As a manager, one of the best ways to identify your preference is by taking a conflict management style quiz and calculating how your score corresponds with the related techniques. After you’ve discovered your style, you’ll be able to decide if you’d like to change your tactics moving forward or if you simply need to improve on your current method.
5 Conflict Management Styles
Once you know your own style, it will be easier to make adjustments as necessary. Learning more about the varying conflict management styles will allow you to see which you’d prefer to use when resolving issues within your team. Take a moment to look them over and choose the direction you feel will best suit the needs of your group when it comes to interpersonal conflict.
Recognized by most as the best option, the compromising conflict management style gives the mediator the ability to find a solution that partially meets the expectations or desires of each party in disagreement.
In situations where both sides are even-minded and acting rationally, this style allows either party to present their viewpoints. The leader then takes bits and pieces from each group and combines them into a new plan that factors in aspects from both.
Unfortunately, there may be times when each party feels they have lost because the full concept of their opinion wasn’t incorporated into the decision. Some may even try to get away with adding more of their own ideas into the final result, meaning you’ll have to monitor the process more closely to prevent further problems.
A temporary compromise may offer a manager additional time to review all the facts and identify more of a win-win scenario. Among conflict resolution strategies, this tactic is most likely to prevent higher levels of strain on the team since both sides at least got part of their view included in the end result.
Also called smoothing, this technique offers a bit more of a laid back approach for team managers. It takes place when a leader realizes they aren’t as interested or passionate about a topic as the other party. The manager may also be willing to use this strategy when they realize they’ve made a mistake or were incorrect.
Leaders having an accommodating conflict management style are usually less involved or concerned about the topic at hand. They may even decide to accommodate others in an attempt to prevent further confrontation that will be detrimental to the team’s overall success. Occasionally, this conflict management tactic will be used simply to give the manager additional time to review the details of the argument.
A few different problems can stem from using this style too freely. Some of your team members may begin to take advantage of your tolerance, allowing them to get away with things they shouldn’t. It may also make situations more difficult to reach a win-win solution after using this technique.
Benefits of this style include the chance to focus on more pressing matters at hand and the time you might need to look more closely at what is being discussed.
3. Problem Solving
Similarly known as the collaborating conflict management style, the idea behind problem-solving is finding an alternative solution that makes both parties pleased with the end result. This is commonly the most likely way to achieve a win-win for each side.
With a focus on teamwork, the manager can dive into the process with their group and search for options that will make everyone happy. Take a close look at the concerns and issues of the people involved to bring all the pieces together when trying to find the correct answer.
To accomplish this, all of the people on your team must be willing to collaborate and work together. If not, the problem may end up diverting to another conflict management style anyway.
Perks of this practice often lead to real solutions to the presented problem. It can also reinforce trust both in you and in your fellow team members, making it easier to reach similar milestones more quickly in the future. A solid foundation will be built around collaboration, leading to more focused employees who are able to work together.
As a leader, there will likely be times when you have to make difficult decisions and overrule at least one party involved in a dispute. The competing conflict management style, sometimes known as forcing, covers those precise moments.
This tactic can be used in instances where one side’s opinion is either incorrect, when a deadline is drawing near and a decision must be made, or when some of the more even-minded management techniques have been unsuccessful. You may even decide to use this style due to the opposing party’s high level of hostility, harassment, or oppression they are placing on you or others involved.
Before you decide on this conflict management style, you should be prepared to deal with consequences that may stem from your final decision. The individual or group you rule against may feel your relationship with them has been tainted. And they may even push back harder in an attempt to reverse your choice.
Though it may lead to additional problems in the future, using this style may offer the quickest resolution for the short-term. And even though not all parties may be pleased with your decision, it is possible most people involved will feel more respect for you due to your self-esteem and sign of strength to be decisive.
The avoiding conflict management style is arguably the worst option on the list if you want to maintain order and cooperation among your team. If a leader chooses to simply ignore issues, delay resolutions, or always tell their group to figure it out amongst themselves, the ensuing chaos could be catastrophic to your company.
Some managers may choose this type of conflict management when they feel a topic is insignificant and not worth the effort to fix. These thoughts could stem from a mindset of being too busy or a complete lack of desire to face hostility from others.
Sweeping things under the rug can lead to a manager appearing weak and incapable of their position. It may also negatively impact their relationship with those who are in genuine need of their help because the manager chooses to look the other way.
And while it isn’t often this tactic will work, there are a few cases where it may be necessary. You may choose to back off or withdraw temporarily to learn more about the situation and put yourself in a stronger position to push back with authority and knowledge of the circumstances. There also may be times where your team members are fighting about something within their personal lives that has no impact on the workplace.
Integrate Your Conflict Management Style to Promote Teamwork
Conflict is inevitable for any company at one point or another. Whether you have a massive business with hundreds of employees or a small team of only two or three people, there will come a time when interests and opinions among the group will be inconsistent.
But now that you know your conflict management style, both you and your team will benefit from your ability to incorporate effective conflict resolution strategies into the daily procedures. Whether you strive to reach compromises or find accommodations that benefit all parties involved, these tactics will play a pivotal role in limiting and settling interpersonal conflicts.
Logan Derrick is a full-time business writer and content marketing strategist. For years, he has worked closely with several project management professionals, learning from them and increasing his own knowledge of the industry. Having held multiple management positions in fields ranging from customer service to marketing, Logan has found a passion for helping others learn about project management, marketing, and the powerful tools available to professionals today.