Conflicts are bound to arise when people with diverse values, personalities, backgrounds, and life experiences join together to accomplish a shared goal.
However, the way in which conflicts are managed and resolved can have a substantial effect on the team’s overall productivity and morale. Therefore, organisations must identify and implement effective conflict resolution strategies.
This article will provide five common conflict resolution styles, emphasising their characteristics, benefits, and potential disadvantages.
What is conflict resolution?
Workplace conflict resolution is finding a mutually agreeable solution to a dispute or disagreement among employees. It involves addressing the underlying issues, defining shared objectives, and developing solutions that are fair and helpful to all parties involved.
Effective conflict resolution fosters open communication, cooperation, and understanding, improving relationships and work ethics. Businesses must emphasise conflict resolution to avoid chronic confrontations that lower production and morale.
Let’s go through the five commonly used conflict resolution styles for settling disputes at work.
5 styles of conflict resolution in the workplace
Managers and their team members can navigate conflicts more effectively and cultivate a healthier work environment if they understand the various conflict resolution styles. There are five ways to handle conflicts at work, each with pros and cons.
The accommodating style is implemented by at least one of the two (or more) workers who are in conflict. This style involves prioritising the needs and wants of the other party over one’s own. This approach typically requires compromising or giving in to the other’s demands to maintain peace and avoid further conflict.
For instance, a worker with an accommodating style may frequently agree to take on extra tasks or work longer hours to support their colleagues, even if it means sacrificing their own personal time and well-being.
That said, while this strategy can be viewed as a selfless and cooperative approach, it may also lead to the individual’s needs and opinions being ignored or suppressed. Furthermore, an excessive use of this style can create an imbalance of power, making it easier for others to take advantage of the accommodating individual.
In addition, constantly accommodating others can result in resentment and frustration, as the individual may feel that their needs and values are being neglected.
Thus, workers must balance between accommodating others and expressing their interests to maintain good, mutually productive partnerships. Also, accommodating others should be an intentional decision rather than a default practice in the workplace that harms oneself.
Leaders, meanwhile, should foster an environment where open communication, empathy, and collaboration are highly valued.
Last but not least, managers should set up transparent regulations and processes for accommodating resolutions to disagreements. That may entail establishing official mediation channels and offering access to professionals in conflict resolution who may assist in encouraging conversations and identifying win-win solutions.
The avoiding approach involves ignoring or sidestepping the conflict, hoping it will resolve itself. People who use this style tend to think that addressing the conflict will only make it more difficult or create more tension. They may try to avoid the conflict by changing the subject, remaining silent, or physically removing themselves from the situation.
Although this technique may bring momentary respite, it does not address the root causes and may lead to unresolved disputes and future troubles. It can also result in a toxic workplace and, therefore, reduce productivity.
Workers should think that while conflict is a natural aspect of human interaction, if left unresolved, it can persist and escalate, resulting in even more serious problems in the future. So, instead of averting conflict, they should confront it head-on and discover constructive solutions.
Managers, meanwhile, must foster a culture where all workers feel safe raising issues and sharing ideas. They may do this by driving open discussion, checking in with their staff often, and offering them plenty of chances to provide feedback. They can explore the use of generative AI techniques to create conflict resolution manuals that institutionalise these strategies.
Managers can also set the tone by acting respectfully and fairly when resolving issues, listening to all sides, and considering their input.
Compromising in the workplace refers to finding a middle ground or reaching a mutually beneficial agreement when there are competing goals or divergent viewpoints.
This style involves both parties in the conflict giving up certain aspects of their desires to reach a mutually acceptable solution. It involves actively listening, understanding various perspectives, and seeking solutions that address the concerns of all parties involved. It also requires a willingness to give and take, ensuring that everyone’s needs are somewhat met.
Compromising can help maintain positive relationships and reduce workplace stress. However, it may not be suitable for all situations. In cases where the stakes are high or the parties involved have deep positions, finding a middle ground may not be practical or feasible.
Therefore, the workers in conflict should consider the context and the long-term implications before relying solely on compromise as a conflict resolution strategy.
For managers, it is vital to approach this style with a mindset of fairness and understanding, acknowledging that both parties may need to give up something to reach a mutually beneficial resolution.
Collaborating in the workplace is a cooperative approach where individuals work together to find a mutually satisfactory solution.
This style involves a willingness to understand and address the underlying needs and interests of all parties involved. Instead of focusing on winning or compromising, collaborating aims to achieve a resolution that benefits everyone and strengthens relationships within the workplace.
Workers in a dispute should bear in mind that collaborating can lead to more effective and sustainable solutions. Working together and pooling different perspectives allows them to tap into a wider range of ideas and solutions. This approach also promotes a sense of ownership as they actively participate in the decision-making process.
For managers, implementing collaboration in the workplace requires creating a corporate culture that values and encourages teamwork. One way to accomplish this is to organise opportunities for the staff to work together on projects.
Additionally, providing the necessary tools and technology for collaboration, such as project management software or video conferencing platforms, is crucial.
Lastly, setting clear expectations and goals for teamwork and providing support and resources for workers to collaborate effectively play a significant role in implementing collaboration. This helps everyone understand the common objectives and can work towards them together.
Competing in the workplace is an approach where individuals prioritise their interests and goals above others. This style is characterised by assertiveness, directness, and a focus on winning the conflict at all costs. Individuals who try to solve conflicts by competing often don’t care about the wants and worries of others.
As a result, this can lead to stressed relationships and an unpleasant work environment. However, this style may work well in situations requiring quick decisions or when one’s interests are at stake.
Competing as a conflict resolution style may provide short-term victories but can have long-term negative consequences. Collaboration and teamwork suffer when individuals are solely focused on outperforming their colleagues and climbing the corporate ladder.
This can create a tense and hostile atmosphere where trust is non-existent, and workers are more likely to engage in unethical behaviors to get ahead. Finally, excessive competition can hinder innovation and the overall success of the organisation.
Still, if managers want to use competition in the workplace as a way to solve conflicts, they need to create a culture that supports healthy competition and sets clear performance standards. Leaders need to promote a fair and transparent evaluation process where workers feel motivated to excel and strive for success.
Also, allowing workers to learn new skills and get training can help them improve their skills and compete effectively in the workplace.
This approach can create a healthy work environment where individuals constantly push themselves to improve and achieve their goals. Balancing the competitive spirit with collaboration and teamwork can lead to a harmonious and high-performing workplace.
Two key skills to improve conflict resolution in the workplace
When conflicts are not properly addressed, they can escalate and negatively impact team dynamics, productivity, and overall morale. Therefore, management must develop their skills and those of their colleagues for effective conflict resolution.
Let’s go over two key skills for improving workplace conflict resolution.
Effective communication is crucial for resolving conflicts in the workplace. It involves actively listening to others, expressing thoughts and concerns clearly, and seeking to understand different perspectives.
When workers improve their communication skills, they can better navigate difficult conversations, resolve conflicts, and foster a more positive and collaborative work environment.
Management can establish open lines of communication to help create an atmosphere of trust and transparency in the workplace. When workers feel comfortable expressing their opinions and concerns, conflicts can be addressed and resolved in a timely manner. Moreover, effective communication plays a vital role in preventing misunderstandings and misinterpretations, reducing the likelihood of conflicts arising in the first place.
Leaders can boost workers’ communication skills and their own through communication workshops or training sessions. These can provide valuable insights and techniques for effective communication, including active listening and clear articulation.
Additionally, seeking feedback can help them identify areas for improvement.
Practicing good communication habits, such as daily check-ins with team members on project progress, can also enhance leaders’ and their colleagues’ overall communication skills. It can ultimately also help management maintain a positive work environment.
Negotiation is another crucial skill for resolving conflicts successfully. It requires negotiating a solution where everyone involved is happy with the end result. Successful negotiations call for attentive listening, precise expression, and an awareness of one another’s goals and points of view.
Negotiators should be able to put themselves in both party’s shoes and think about the situation from their viewpoints.
Managers can learn negotiation techniques by taking courses or workshops, reading books or articles, or seeking guidance from experienced negotiators. Practicing negotiation skills in real-life situations can also help improve their abilities. If they have a team member they think has potential for negotiating conflicts, they should also encourage them to do these same things. This way, the selected worker can help resolve conflicts in the workplace even when management is not around.
Conflict is a natural part of any workplace, and effectively managing and resolving it is a valuable skill.
As a result, organisations must become familiar with and make use of the following conflict resolution styles:
By implementing these conflict resolution styles, conflicts can be addressed in a constructive and respectful manner, leading to improved teamwork and productivity. Managers should also implement strategies to enhance their communication and negotiation skills and those of their colleagues.
Ultimately, organisations that prioritise conflict resolution create a healthy work environment where everyone feels supported and valued, ensuring the company’s overall success.
About the Author
James Westfield is the Marketing Manager for Writer, an AI writing platform designed for teams. He has over 10 years of experience in the industry. When James isn’t in the office, you can find him on the golf course.