Lesson of the Week: The Five Styles of Conflict Management

The holiday season is upon us. Holiday parties are the norm this month, and they can be jolly and fun. But they can also contribute to conflict. Left unchecked, this conflict could lead to bullying and possibly to harassment. In the piece below, the first in a two-part series on office and workplace conflict, our Thought Leader and noted human resources expert Val Grubb discusses the different types of management styles that lead to conflict resolution.
When two or more people spend time together, they’re bound to come into conflict, and when this happens, conflict resolution is in order. Savvy managers, however, know how important it is to nip problems in the bud whenever possible. If left unresolved, conflicts rarely go away; rather, they continue to grow in scope and eventually get so big that they become difficult—but not impossible!—to resolve.
Five Styles of Conflict Management
Managers should never adopt “one-size-fits-all” approaches to conflict resolution, but should instead take the time to carefully analyze each situation and determine which management style (or combination of styles) is most appropriate for dealing with it.
In this style, a person postpones, sidesteps, or simply withdraws from addressing the conflict.

  • Pros: This style gives you more preparation time. It’s also a low-stress approach to dealing with minor fires that don’t need to be put out immediately (such as stage 1 conflicts).
  • Cons: A delay might weaken or even totally undermine your position. Also, if at least one of the involved parties expects you to take action, your failure to do so might damage your relationship with that party.

In this style, a person accommodates someone else’s needs and preferences before his or her own.

  • Pros: Being accommodating on one issue can help you protect your interest in an area that you consider more important.
  • Cons: If you get a reputation for being too accommodating, people may try to take advantage of you; also, it may be difficult for you to reach win–win solutions if people expect you to give in some or most of the time. Additionally, this approach can alienate your supporters.

In this style, a person pursues his or her own concerns (in spite of any resistance from other parties); this approach may involve promoting one viewpoint at the expense of another or maintaining firm resistance to another person’s actions. 

  • Pros: Conflicts are often resolved quickly. Acting forcefully and decisively can garner you your colleagues’ respect and boost your self-esteem, especially if you successfully eliminate (or at least mitigate) an extremely negative situation.
  • Cons: The strong-arm technique can damage your workplace relationships, especially those with other parties involved in these conflicts. Also, using this style may give your opponents the latitude to use it themselves.

In this style, a person strives to achieve a win–win solution that makes all parties happy.

  • Pros: The problem actually gets resolved! And because the result is a win–win situation, everyone is happy. By strengthening mutual respect and trust, this approach can make future collaboration more likely.
  • Cons: Because this style requires more work and time than other approaches, it may not be the optimal choice when tight deadlines are looming; also, collaboration can be a stressful process until it’s concluded. If all parties don’t commit to this approach and don’t trust one another, then this approach cannot successfully resolve the issue.

In this style, all parties look for an expedient and mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties.

  • Pros: When time is of the essence, this can provide a solution while still leaving open the possibility of using collaboration in the future to build this out to a complete win–win for all parties. This style can also provide immediate mitigation of the stress and tension that accompany conflicts.
  • Cons: This style doesn’t build long-term trust, and some sort of oversight or check-in is required to make sure that all parties fulfill their agreements and get what they expect. Also, because each party doesn’t get everything it wants, the solution may end up being a lose–lose arrangement.

Now What?
Once you’ve determined what conflict-management style would be most effective for a particular issue, then it’s time to move to the next item on your to-do list: coming up with a detailed plan for resolving the conflict. To read details about that process, don’t miss our next post!

Karetta Hubbard and Lynne Revo-Cohen, co-founders of NewPoint Strategies provide Next Generation consulting, classroom and on-line digital learning solutions in High Risk EEO issues including diversity/inclusion/unconscious bias, harassment and assault prevention. TRAINING. EMPOWING. EDUCATING. Creating SAFE SPACES at Work.

Top photo: Bigstock

About KHubbard LRevo-Cohen GCrider Chris Kilmartin Maria Morukian (34 Articles)
Since 1984, the founders of NewPoint Strategies, Karetta Hubbard and Lynne Revo-Cohen, have built a strong reputation for delivering extremely effective prevention training in high-risk issues such as sexual harassment/assault. Contributing Author and Lead Consultant, Chris Kilmartin, Ph.D, Emeritus Professor of Psychology from the University of Mary Washington, is an expert in Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention, specifically Male Violence Against Women, Gwen Crider, a diversity and inclusion strategist with over 20 years of leadership experience in non-profit and private sector organizations, and Maria Morukian is an internationally recognized diversity expert