Most Effective Conflict Management Styles
Great leaders and managers make effective decisions using suitable conflict management styles. Get to know these five conflict management styles and the right situations to apply them. As a manager, good decision-making must take into account the urgency of the decision and the relationships that are potentially affected by that decision. By understanding which conflict management style you should use, it will make the difference between appearing too strong, weak, rigid, or indecisive.
The 5 Conflict Management Styles at a Glance
The five conflict management styles covered in this article are based on the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument. The five styles are formed on the amount of cooperation and how assertive the manager is in the decision-making process. The five styles are:
When it comes to the accommodating conflict management style, this approach means that you forsake your own needs for the other person’s benefit. Use this type of conflict management style when the conflict is of little importance. This method is giving in to the needs of others. Save time and effort with the accommodating conflict management style, and avoid arguments over more irrelevant issues that may waste time.
- Pros: The conflict is resolved quickly. Managers using this style appear flexible and dynamic.
- Cons: When this style is used too often, the manager seems weak. If this conflict management style is used on larger issues, problems don’t get resolved.
Example: Pat and Chris are trying to decide whether to have fruit or pastries at the meeting tomorrow. Pat insists on pastries, but Chris wants fruit. Chris uses the accommodating conflict management style, ordering pastries. Chris doesn’t mind either way.
The avoiding conflict management style removes more difficult decisions. This is done by eliminating conflicted parties from the decision being made or shifting deadlines to remove the pressure of making the decision. This conflict management style is perfect for when time or breathing room is beneficial for the people who are involved. Decisions can’t be delayed forever. At some point, the matter can no longer be avoided.
- Pros: Sometimes, rushed decisions are made poorly. By taking time to assess the situation more, the team can reach a better conclusion.
- Cons: If used in the wrong situation, the conflict can be made worse. Over-use of this style makes someone seem indecisive or a procrastinator.
Example: Jordan and Adrian are trying to decide on the final retail price for the new product that is getting released, but they can’t agree. They avoid the decision, delaying market entry for an extra week to research similar products.
The compromising conflict management style quickly reaches a decision, by having both parties concede something they don’t want to reach a consensus. This style is used when a deadline is imminent and a decision needs to be made between two stakeholders. Overuse of the compromising conflict management style can generate spite since each party feels like they have lost something.
- Pros: This style means that a decision is achieved, both parties have won something but both parties have also lost something.
- Cons: No one leaves completely satisfied. Ultimately one or both of the parties feel like they have lost more than the other.
Example: Trying to increase sales, the Marketing Manager would like a full-time Digital Marketing Specialist and the Sales Manager would like another Sales Representative. Only one full-time employee is affordable. They each hire someone for a part-time position for these roles.
The collaborating conflict management style is the best for long-term results but is also the hardest to succeed with. In this style, everyone’s needs are considered. The final consensus is a decision where everyone feels like they have gotten what they wanted. This conflict management style saves relationships between all people involved. The entire team continues to work together without the resolution having a serious impact on one individual.
- Pros: Everyone is happy, and a solution is found that resolves all the problems in the conflict. The manager is seen as being highly-skilled.
- Cons: This method of conflict resolution takes a lot of time. Deadlines and other constraints often won’t allow for conflicts to be resolved with this style.
Example: Alex and Brooke are trying to name the new product going into the market, but they both don’t like each other’s suggestions. They continue working together and find new names for the product until they discover one that they are both happy with.
The competing style completely ignores compromise. With this conflict management style, the manager sticks to their own guns and refuses to back down on any aspect of the decision being made. This conflict management style is often used in situations when there is a moral issue with the decision being made. This style should be seldomly used since it makes a manager seem unwilling to compromise and authoritarian.
- Pros: This style shows strength. The manager refuses to back down. This style shows the character of the person using it.
- Cons: If used too often, the manager is seen as being unreasonable. Over-use will make the decision-maker out to be a tyrant.
Example: Charlie is not willing to ask staff members to work weekends, since that’s time for them to enjoy their families. Charlie’s manager insists that a staff member must take work home to get done over the weekend. Charlie refuses the request, saying that more staff are needed if the demands are so high.
Choosing Your Conflict Management Style
Choosing a conflict management style is often intuitive. It is possible to train yourself on using different conflict management styles based on the situation at hand.
Choosing a conflict management style assesses two variables: how important it is to meet the deadline, and how important it is to maintain relationships with stakeholders in conflict. Collaborating and accommodating conflict management styles are better at preserving a relationship. Competing and collaborating management styles are best for situations when a goal needs to be achieved.
The next time you choose a conflict management style:
- Consider how important it is to achieve your goal, and how important it is to preserve relationships with your team, peers, and management.
- Over-use of the accommodating style will make a manager seem weak and ineffective.
- Using the competing style too often will make a manager seem like a tyrant.
- Using the avoiding conflict management style only postpones a decision.
- Where possible, the collaborating style will achieve the best results. The compromising conflict management style can also substitute but is not as good.
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