When you started your business, conflict management was probably not something you worried about handling. You had a unique product or service idea, a plan for how to grow your company, and ideas about how to make your product or service into a profitable, full-time job for you and others as your company grew.
You probably didn’t think about handling conflicts at work that inevitably arise. But where people work together, conflicts are bound to happen. How you handle this conflict as a manager affects how your employees interact with each other and the culture of your workplace and can even impact efficiency and workflow.
Handling common workplace conflicts well isn’t just a goal - it’s a must-have skill for anyone in management. Conflicts can influence employee productivity and derail projects affecting your bottom line.
5 core conflict management styles
People have different ways of handling conflict, so resolving it can be challenging most of the time. That’s why it’s essential to understand each style to assess where each person is coming from and how they may expect the conflict to be resolved.
How you resolve conflict in the workplace will naturally center on your conflict style. Still, it’s essential to learn all conflict management styles to handle disputes between different personalities successfully and choose the style that best fits the situation.
And while each person may use a different style more frequently, we all use each of these occasions, depending on the situation.
This conflict management style seems agreeable on the surface. People who use the accommodating style often allow others to have their way to keep the peace and move on from the conflict. Sometimes this is the best way to handle a battle, especially if it’s unimportant for one party or if it’s over a minor issue.
However, trouble arises because people with this conflict management style often feel overlooked. They may become resentful as their needs go unmet, conflict isn’t resolved in a way that feels positive to them, and they may accommodate even when they shouldn’t.
People who use the conflict management style of avoiding ignore problems hoping they’ll go away. Continually putting off meetings to discuss a conflict, changing the subject, or avoiding people involved in the competition are all ways of avoiding conflict. This can be a helpful way of temporarily managing disputes if you need more time to think about your opinion, are giving others space to cool down from heated emotions, or don’t have time to resolve the conflict appropriately.
But this method of handling conflicts can be a double-edged sword if you never come back around and resolve the dispute. Using this with others can make them feel ignored or like their concerns aren’t being taken seriously.
This style often receives a win-win result. People who use the collaborating style recognize they may have to make concessions for the other party so that both sides involved can be satisfied with the solution and successfully work together. They work together to come up with a solution acceptable to both sides.
However, the collaborating style can be a time-consuming way to resolve conflict. Since it requires a lot of time spent communicating needs, listening, and brainstorming, too much time using this style could cause missed deadlines or cause work to pile up.
Competing conflict management can be described in another way - bulldozing. While this style should be used sparingly, it can be helpful when a solution must be reached or when the alternative solution would be a poor choice for the company. People who use the competing style focus on their own needs and get their way, causing others to bend to accommodate them.
Using this style can cause hurt feelings, and it may cause employees to avoid bringing up conflicts or new ideas if they feel they’ll be ignored.
The compromising style of conflict management attempts to find a solution where both parties give a little and get a little, meeting in the middle where both parties are partially satisfied. Even though both parties may not feel completely happy with the result, each side has their needs at least partially met.
This style can help solve without spending too much time resolving the conflict. However, both parties will probably not be delighted with the results.
If you’re not sure which of these styles of conflict management fits you, you can take this 30-question conflict management style assessment to shed some light on the styles you operate in most often.
5 conflict management skills and traits every team leader should have
While there are five ways people tend to be most comfortable resolving conflict in the workplace, there are also five skills everyone should learn to help manage conflict. These skills can help you manage conflict in the workplace, in your personal life, and everywhere you encounter conflict.
Listening well is the first step to getting to the heart of the problem and finding an acceptable solution. Genuinely listening to what others have to say can go a long way to help others feel heard and understood. Practice listening to each side’s concerns without interjecting your own opinion, interrupting, or tuning out because you think they’re wrong.
Sometimes, managers may disagree with the entire premise of the conflict. It may seem trivial, or you may not understand why one party is so upset about the situation. Practice setting your personal feelings about the competition aside, and try to see it from each side’s perspective. Even if you don’t fully understand the emotions behind the conflict, empathizing with each side can further help you understand the conflict and smooth the path to finding a solution.
Admitting When You’re Wrong
It’s painful to admit, but we’re all wrong from time to time. Accepting when you’re wrong can be as simple as letting others know you’ve changed your mind after receiving additional information. It could also mean apologizing for sharp words or making a hasty decision using wrong information. No matter the situation, taking responsibility for your comments or actions will help you gain the respect of your team and make you a better team leader.
Conflict in the workplace involves two opposing sides, and finding common ground through negotiation is a critical skill in resolving disputes. After using your listening skills and empathizing with each party, negotiation skills can help you navigate a common ground between the parties and help you reach an agreement acceptable to both sides.
Separating the Person from the Problem
We all have people who may rub us the wrong way. Effectively managing personality differences involves separating the person from the problem by focusing on the conflict itself rather than the people involved in the conflict.
Successfully managing teams requires learning how to resolve conflict effectively. Finding the balance between different personalities and competing conflict management styles can be difficult, but it becomes easier the more you do it. Improving your conflict management skills keeps your team happier, helps everyone feel heard, and keeps productivity and workplace satisfaction high.