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Conflict Resolution Style

5 Types Of Conflict Resolution Styles And How Can Managers Use Them

Conflict resolution is an art that requires good management of emotions, conflict styles, and team dynamics. It also requires the right mindset and skills to identify conflict situations and make conflict resolution-style decisions correctly. Unfortunately, conflict management is a neglected area that often has negative connotations in most organizations. 

This blog will discuss 5 conflict resolution styles commonly used in decision-making and in groups, how managers can use them, and how you can decide which conflict resolution style to use in different conflicts or disagreements. If you are working as a manager or trying to understand conflict management styles better, read this blog till the end.

What is conflict resolution?

Conflict is a term used to describe disagreement between people or groups. It can range from minor disagreements to conflicts that can lead to wars. A conflict arises when two or more parties have competing interests and cannot reach a mutually satisfactory resolution. 

Conflict resolution is a process that helps resolve disagreements and disputes between two or more parties. The goal of conflict resolution is to find a mutually acceptable solution that addresses the concerns of all parties involved and restores or improves relationships. It is important to note that conflict resolution is not only about winning or being right, but also about finding a way to reach a mutually beneficial outcome. 

What is conflict resolution style?

Conflict resolution style refers to individuals’ different approaches and strategies to manage and resolve conflicts. These styles can vary depending on the individual’s personality, background, and previous experiences. Understanding different conflict resolution styles can help individuals to identify their preferred approach and to adapt their style to suit better the specific situation and parties involved in a conflict. Several commonly recognized conflict resolution styles exist with style having its strengths and weaknesses and may be more or less effective depending on the situation.

The conflict resolution styles grid

The conflict resolution styles grid is a tool that can help managers identify the most appropriate approach to resolving a conflict. Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann developed this grid in the 1970s. They used two main dimensions in this grid which are assertiveness and cooperativeness.

The assertiveness dimension measures how much a person tries to satisfy their concerns and interests. In contrast, the cooperativeness dimension measures how much a person is trying to meet the concerns and interests of others.

The grid consists of five different conflict management styles:

  • Competing
  • Accommodating
  • Avoiding
  • Collaborating 
  • Compromising
Different conflict resolution styles may be appropriate in different situations, and effective managers should be able to adapt their style depending on the specific circumstances of the conflict.

Here are 6 simple conflict management questions that managers can ask!

The 5 main conflict resolution styles

Competing

The competing is a conflict resolution style, also known as the “forcing” style. It is characterized by a high level of assertiveness and a low level of cooperativeness. In this style, individuals prioritize their own goals and interests over those of others and are willing to use power or authority to achieve their objectives. For example, this conflict resolution style is often functional when people perceive limited resources and want to ensure they get their fair share.

Advantages of the competing style:

  • It can be effective when time is of the essence, and a quick resolution is needed.
  • It can be effective in cases where the other party is unwilling to compromise or negotiate.
  • It can be helpful when an individual or group is in a position of power and needs to assert its authority.
Disadvantages of the competing style:

  • It can be seen as aggressive and may create resentment or hostility from the other party.
  • It may not lead to a mutually beneficial outcome and can result in a “winner” and “loser” mentality.
  • It can damage relationships, and the other party may be less likely to work with the individual.

Accommodating

The accommodating conflict resolution style, also known as the “yielding” style, is characterized by a low level of assertiveness and a high level of cooperativeness. In this style, individuals prioritize the goals and interests of others over their own and are willing to compromise or make concessions to maintain harmony and avoid confrontation. This style is valid when a person perceives that the relationship with the other party is more important than the outcome of the conflict and wants to preserve the relationship.

Advantages of the accommodating style:

  • It can be effective in preserving relationships and maintaining harmony.
  • It can help avoid the escalation of a conflict.
  • It can be an excellent way to defuse a potentially volatile situation.
Disadvantages of the accommodating style:

  • It can be seen as weak and may lead to a partial resolution.
  • It can result in the individual not getting their own needs met.
  • It can be taken advantage of by the other party in future conflicts.

Avoiding

Also known as “withdrawing,” is the conflict resolution style with low assertiveness and cooperativeness. In this style, individuals avoid or postpone the conflict and do not express their own needs or concerns or attempt to address the needs or circumstances of others. This style is helpful when a person perceives that the conflict is too difficult to resolve or that the issue is not important enough to justify the effort.

Advantages of the avoiding style:

  • It can be effective in preventing the escalation of a conflict.
  • It can help preserve relationships by avoiding confrontation.
  • It can be a good way to defuse a potentially volatile situation.
Disadvantages of the avoiding style:

  • It does not lead to resolving the conflict, and the underlying issues may resurface later.
  • It might appear as a lack of leadership or willingness to address critical issues.
  • It can lead to unresolved issues festering and causing problems in the future.

Collaborating

The “problem-solving” conflict resolution style has high assertiveness and cooperativeness. In this style, individuals work together with the other party to find a solution that meets the needs and concerns of all parties involved. This style is helpful when a person perceives that the issue at hand is essential and that the involved parties can find a mutually beneficial solution.

Advantages of the collaborating style:

  • It leads to a mutually beneficial solution that addresses the needs and concerns of all parties involved.
  • It can improve relationships by creating a sense of teamwork and cooperation.
  • It can be effective in resolving complex or long-term conflicts.
Disadvantages of the collaborating style:

  • It can be time-consuming and may not be feasible in situations where time is of the essence.
  • It may be difficult to achieve if one or more parties are unwilling to cooperate.
  • It may not be appropriate when one party has more power or resources than the other.

Compromising

The “compromising” conflict resolution style has moderate assertiveness and cooperativeness. In this style, individuals seek to find a middle ground and make concessions to reach an acceptable resolution for all parties involved, even if it is not the best solution for anyone. This conflict resolution style is often valid when a person perceives that a resolution needs to happen quickly and that a mutually beneficial solution is unlikely to be found.

Advantages of the compromising style:

  • It can lead to a quick resolution of the conflict.
  • It can be effective when both parties are willing to make concessions.
  • It can help preserve relationships by avoiding prolonged conflict.
Disadvantages of the compromising style:

  • It may not lead to a fair or mutually beneficial solution.
  • It can result in one or more parties feeling unsatisfied with the outcome.
  • It can be taken advantage of by the other party in future conflicts.
Click here to know about the 6 effective hacks that a manager can use to manage conflicts at work.

Tips for using the conflict management style grid

Here are some tips for using the conflict management styles grid:

  • Understand that different conflict resolution styles may be appropriate in different situations: Each style has its advantages and disadvantages, and the most effective managers can adapt their style depending on the specific circumstances of the conflict.
  • Assess the situation: Before choosing a conflict resolution style, it’s vital to assess the nature of the conflict, the underlying causes, the interests and needs of all parties involved, the power dynamics at play, and the desired outcome.
  • Communicate effectively: Effective communication is vital in conflict resolution. Listen actively and try to understand the other party’s perspective.
  • Keep in mind the long-term goal: The goal of conflict resolution is not to “win” but to find a mutually beneficial solution that addresses the needs and concerns of all parties involved.
  • Be prepared to use multiple styles: There may need more than one style to resolve a complex or long-term conflict. Therefore, be ready to use various styles in different stages of the conflict resolution process.
  • Be aware of your biases: Our biases can affect our perspective on a conflict; be mindful and approach the situation objectively.
  • Be open to feedback: Be open to input from the other party and be willing to adjust your approach if necessary.
  • Seek support: If the conflict is complicated to resolve, seek the help of a neutral third party, such as a mediator, to facilitate the resolution process.
  • By using these tips, you’ll be able to identify the most appropriate approach to resolving a conflict and using the proper management style to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

Conflict Resolution Examples

  1. Competing: A manager is overseeing a construction project and one of the subcontractors is consistently missing deadlines and not meeting the quality standards. The manager uses a competing conflict management style by setting a deadline for the subcontractor to meet the standards or face termination of the contract.
  2. Collaborating: A manager is working with a team on a new product launch. One team member suggests a new feature, but another team member objects because it would delay the launch date. The manager uses a collaborating style by bringing the team together to brainstorm and come up with a solution that addresses both concerns and meets the launch date.
  3. Compromising: A manager has a tight budget and needs to cut costs. A department head is pushing for a new piece of equipment, but the manager doesn’t want to spend the money. The manager uses a compromising style by suggesting a leasing option for the equipment, which allows the department to have the equipment they need but also keeps costs down.
  4. Avoiding: A manager notices that there’s tension between two employees but doesn’t want to get involved. The manager uses an avoiding style by hoping the tension will dissipate over time and not addressing the conflict directly. This might give some time for the employees to cool down and work on the issue on their own.
  5. Accommodating: A manager is working with a new employee who has a lot of great ideas but lacks experience. The manager uses an accommodating style by allowing the new employee to work on projects with guidance and support instead of shutting down their ideas.
It’s important to note that different styles may be used in different parts of the conflict resolution process, and some situations may require a combination of styles. Also, the most effective style for a particular conflict may depend on the nature of the conflict, the parties involved, and the goals of the manager.

Do you need help managing conflicts in your team? Download our free Conflict Management Toolkit to master the art of conflict resolution. This toolkit will help you identify and understand the typical conflicts you face with your teams. It will also guide you to build a framework for conflict resolution that fulfills your and your team’s interests.

In addition to such toolkits, Risely offers you various free self-assessments that help you understand your strengths and weaknesses as a manager. It helps you build your conflict management abilities and 30+ such challenges, which allow you to unleash your highest potential as a manager. Sign up for Risely to get detailed guidance and customized learning to ensure that tackling work challenges is a breeze for you.

Conclusion

In conclusion, effective conflict resolution is essential for managers and leaders in any organization. The conflict resolution style grid discussed in the blog is valuable for identifying the most appropriate approach to resolving a conflict. Each style has its advantages and disadvantages, and the most effective managers can adapt their style depending on the specific circumstances of the conflict. It’s essential to understand the nature of the conflict, the underlying causes, the interests and needs of all parties involved, and the desired outcome.

Effective communication, openness to feedback, and seeking support when necessary are crucial to resolving conflicts. Remember, the goal of using these conflict resolution styles is not to “win” but to find a mutually beneficial solution that addresses the needs and concerns of all parties involved.

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