In life, conflict is inevitable.
In the workplace, conflict is one of your daily job responsibilities whether you are an owner, manage, or part-time chimney sweep at the office.
Conflict is an interesting concept, because it is not often discussed but it has the largest impact on work efficiency, communication, and overall sense of employee morale in the company.
There are 5 main conflict styles, all having their advantages and disadvantages.
Competitive Style: This style approaches conflict with a win/lose mentality. Either they win or they lose, and they will say/do anything to win in their mind. They are aggressive and confrontational, most often disregarding the needs of the other party.
Advantages: The conflict is identified quickly. This style is used in emergency situations or places where decision making is timely.
Disadvantages: The needs of the other party are dismissed
Example: A member of an organization suggests more weekly team meetings. The manager answers, “No, we don’t have time for more team meetings. What I say goes, because I’m the boss.”
Compromising: This style approaches conflict with a desire to meet the other person’s needs, even if that means sacrificing one’s own needs.
Advantages: The other party’s needs are acknowledged.
Disadvantages: The conflict has been avoided and it could lead to resentment.
Example: A co-worker asks you to finish one of their tasks if you don’t mind. You answer yes, even though you have your own responsibilities to complete.
Avoidance: Denying or dismissing the conflict through passiveness, joking, or physical avoidance.
Advantages: That uncomfortable feeling of conflict has been postponed. (Key word, postponed). This strategy is helpful if the conflict is unsafe.
Disadvantages: The issue is “pushed under the rug” until a later time, possible worsening the stakes of the conflict.
Example: You avoid a manager through non-decisive jokes or physical avoidance when they ask you to work overtime.
Accommodating: Similar to compromising, this conflict strategy avoids conflict by bending completely to the needs of others.
Advantages: The conflict has been avoided. This strategy is helpful when communicating with a volatile person, someone who is not yet ready to collaborate.
Disadvantages: The possibility of resentment can build in both parties.
Collaborating: During the conflict, both parties keep in mind common goals and the needs of others to brainstorm a solution that works for both parties.
Advantages: Both parties leave the conflict satisfied and understood.
Disadvantages: This conflict style takes time and skill. It is not easy to collaborate quickly without much practice. Both parties must be ready to collaborate with each other and have the skills to do so.
Example: A team member suggests more weekly team meetings. The manager answers, “I agree that communication can be stronger with more weekly team meetings. Our time restrictions in this quarter are not allowing for more meetings. What are the team’s thoughts on more communicative memos on production goals and how to attain them?”
All of these conflict styles are used in different contexts. We are a certain conflict style when handling high-stakes situations, informal situations, and social situations.
When handling conflict, remember to act as a team and not as a competitor. In the workplace, we are all on the same team looking to achieve the same company-wide goals.