5 Conflict Management Styles With Pros and Cons

Conflict Management Styles

People tend to disagree with one another for various reasons. Conflict can be unpredictable or predictable depending on the actions and inactions of others. In a business setting, it can emerge as a result of unhappiness in the workforce. So, every manager should be well aware of the conflict management styles.

For example, a situation where employees that belong to labor unions are voicing out their displeasure about unpleasant working conditions. Conflict may arise if the top-level management refuses to listen to the aggrieved parties, and take the necessary actions to satisfy them.

As the business owner in this situation, you cannot just ignore their feelings, and wait for tensions to die down. Conflict management strategies will have to be implemented in order to avoid a possible strike action.

Conflict as an Organizational Phenomenon

No organization can do without adopting a conflict resolution model because it is normal for disagreements to happen in corporate affairs. A study revealed that 85% of workers deal with conflict one way or the other.

Disputes or disagreements can come in various forms—be it in relation to colleagues, employees, or superiors. The best thing that you can do as a business manager is to prepare yourself for it. Conflict can arise in the workplace due to the following reasons:

  • Unrealistic expectations from superiors
  • Complex assignments or heavy workloads
  • Impaired communication
  • Scarce resources
  • Stress
  • Personality differences
  • Underperformance
  • Discrimination
  • Political differences
  • Gender-based inequity in remuneration

According to a 2016 study, it was gathered that political differences may be one of the causes of heightened tension in the workplace. One study showed that 49% of conflict happens as a result of personality differences. Another revealed that 34% of conflict is due to work-related stress.

Researchers found out that heavy workloads induce 33% of conflict. When it comes to inequity in remuneration, statistics show that men earn 21% more than their female colleagues. Note that there are other factors that were not mentioned in the above list.

In a broader sense, apart from corporate affairs, conflict arises in many areas of human life—family, politics, religion, sports, etc. People can only try to manage them well by practicing the right conflict resolution styles. You may try to steer clear of such negative occurrences if you notice the signs. However, what if a long term avoidance ends up making things worse?

In this guide, you will learn why conflict management styles are needed in an organization. Also, the following relevant questions will be answered:

  • What is conflict management?
  • Finally, what are the 5 conflict resolution strategies?

What Is Conflict Management?

You cannot fully understand what conflict management styles are if you do not have a good grasp of what conflict management is. Without further ado, a definition is here:

Conflict management is a process that involves the settling of disagreements or disputes between two or more parties. The aim is to strike a deal that every stakeholder will subscribe to by working with a conflict resolution model. Each party is encouraged to come for a meeting for the sake of progress.

In relation to the example given earlier about labor unions and top-level management, business owners can decide to meet their colleagues or immediate subordinates to discuss conflict resolution styles. Once a plan has been formulated, a meeting will be organized with the labor union heads in attendance. You can see a progressive conflict resolution model in play here.

What you may be trying to achieve is to get the negative effects of the situation minimized along with the factors that are inducing it. Having a long discussion in order to understand the situation, and then proceeding to negotiate can yield tangible results. The cooperativeness of every party is the end goal.

When there is an organizational dispute, you have to assess the situation before deciding on which of the conflict management styles to choose from. You need to ask yourself some important questions. Some of them are stated below.

  • How important is the matter to you or your organization?
  • Is it worth the time and effort that will be put into resolving it?
  • What are the possible implications of not taking the situation seriously?
  • How important is the matter to you or your organization?

When it comes to appraising the matter, you have to be careful. It may be easy to dismiss a developing issue as something that may blow over without any consequence. You cannot take any situation for granted no matter how small it looks. As the saying goes: prevention is better than cure.

Your choice of conflict management styles may be influenced by how much you value the parties involved. Prolonging a short term dispute is not advisable if you have a beneficial relationship with the other party. You may have to compromise for other reasons such as personal values, moral inclination, etc.

  • What are the possible implications of not taking the situation seriously?

The possible risks of letting an issue escalate should be evaluated. Lower-level managers are more at risk when it comes to disagreements with higher-level managers. Even if you are not a stakeholder in the ongoing discord, you may feel a moral obligation to choose a side, so as not to end up feeling regretful for being apathetic.

Sometimes, conflict may arise because you did not oppose a party’s opinion with good reason. It may be that such inaction caused a bad decision to be made—resulting in an avoidable dispute. So, simply put, causing a conflict for the greater good may be the right thing to do. The consequences can be negative or positive.

  • Is it worth the time and effort that will be put into resolving it?

Do you know what it takes to hold your ground when the other party is not budging? The matter could become a long term one. It may require you to put it in much time and effort into meetings, presentations, legal steps, research, etc. It can be a tedious and stressful period. You should be sure that you are ready for all that.

The time that will be consumed may be too precious to exhaust on conflicts. It is advisable to decide which direction you want to take as quickly as possible. With that in mind, you have to opt for suitable conflict handling styles. This leads to answering the next major question: What are the 5 Conflict Resolution Strategies?

What Are The 5 Conflict Resolution Strategies?

What is conflict management without effective conflict-handling styles? The 5 conflict management styles explained below will be useful in different scenarios.

  1. Accommodating Conflict Style
  2. Avoiding Conflict Style
  3. Collaborating Conflict Style
  4. Competing Conflict Style
  5. Compromising Conflict Style

1. Accommodating Conflict Style

An accommodating conflict style involves compromise. Do not confuse it with the compromising conflict style just yet. It works when you decide to let the desires of others prevail over yours for the sake of peace. It may be easy to do when you care less about the matter on the ground than the other party.

An example of such situations is when there is only one desktop computer available for you and another colleague to use. You may both need to use it a particular time leading to a problematic moment. One person has to make the sacrifice to allow the other to proceed. You can decide to let your colleague have his or her way.

Pros

  1. It is a quick solution you can try when you are in a dilemma.
  2. Others may have a positive view about you in terms of being selfless and easy-going.

Cons

  1. You may be taken for granted if you keep bending to the desires of others easily.
  2. Refrain from using this technique for issues of high importance, especially as a high-level manager.

2. Avoiding Conflict Style

This technique requires you to evade conflict totally by procrastination. Even if the matter is brought up by the stakeholders, you would always do or say something to avoid addressing the issue. You may use the avoiding conflict style if you feel that the matter is not important, or if you think that your views may offend others.

An example of a scenario where such methods can be used is when you surrender in an argument that is building up with a colleague. You can also decide to be less antagonistic by taking a calmer approach. Tension may subside quickly when one party decides to tone it down during a confrontation.

Pros

  1. It helps people calm down.
  2. It helps you understand others better.

Cons

  1. You may be perceived as weak if you keep trying to be the calm one in every confrontation.
  2. It can cause you to build up internal rage that may lead to an uncontrolled outburst in the long run.

3. Collaborating Conflict Style

Among all the conflict management strategies, this one aims to please everybody (including yourself) at the same time. The collaborating conflict style attempts to result in a win-win situation for everybody. It is used when there are many interests involved.

An example can be seen in an instance where a meeting is held involving all the members of a 5-man lead generation team for the sake of compiling their individual ideas. When each person’s idea is added to a long list of ideas that will be used in their lead generation strategy, then everyone will feel good about being heard.

Pros

  1. You will be seen as a skilled manager if you can successfully implement this style.
  2. Everybody is happy at the end.

Cons

  1. It is time-consuming.
  2. It is the most tedious method to implement.

4. Competing Conflict Style

This style involves standing your ground on an issue until all your demands are met. This clearly implies that you will disregard the views of the other party. It can be appropriate when your morals or rights are infringed upon. It may be a drastic step to stop a resolution that you feel is bad from being reached.

A good example that can be used to illustrate this is when the female employees of an organization seek to make an obstinate boss meet their demands for equity in remuneration. The issue may have dragged on for too long—forcing them to take a strike action.

Pros

  1. It helps to find a lasting solution to long term disputes quickly.
  2. It gives others an impression that you are a principled person.

Cons

  1. It may give others the impression that you are an authoritarian.
  2. Your stance may appear unreasonable and selfish.

5. Compromising Conflict Style

This is another one of the conflict resolution styles that tries to please the other party, unlike the competing conflict style. It is aimed at partially pleasing all parties. At the end, each person is happy, but not totally satisfied. The essence of this style is the need for an agreement to be reached by any means, even if it is not the best one. It is also called the “lose-lose” style.

For example, if the head of a department gives a directive to two colleagues to handle a particular task together, they may face a problem of individual timing. They may not be able to work at the same time due to their individual workloads. A decision can be reached to create shifts. Based on convenience, one of them may decide to do half of the task in the morning, while the other may decide to complete it in the afternoon.

Pros

  1. It saves time.
  2. It is good for getting yourself out of a dilemma.
  3. It helps you understand the feelings of others.
  4. It facilitates better team-work.
  5. It makes you learn to be more selfless.

Cons

  1. It may lead to resentment.
  2. It is not a style that can be used regularly.
  3. One party might not like the feeling that they are sacrificing more than others.

Conclusion

Implementing the right conflict management styles in your organization will help you strengthen employee and customer relations. As a business owner, you might need to change your leadership style to suit the conflict handling styles you will adopt. The emergence of conflict can only help you to become a better business manager if you know how to handle it well with the right conflict management strategies in place.

By Kalpataru Biswas

Kalpataru is software sales and product marketing professional. He writes on entrepreneurship, sales, marketing, customer success, and personal development.

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