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What are the Different Types of Conflict Management Styles?

By K. Testa
Updated May 16, 2024
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Most dispute resolution experts agree that there are five common conflict management styles, though there may be others as well. The five distinct styles are force, accommodation, avoidance, compromise, and collaboration. Choosing the best option among various conflict management styles generally depends on the particular circumstances. Many people are usually comfortable with one or two of the styles, regardless of the issue. Despite having preferred methods that they use most of the time, however, people may sometimes face situations in which it could be difficult, or even dangerous, not to use a different strategy. When resolving workplace conflict, it is important to recognize that one’s usual strategy may be inappropriate for addressing the matter, and that adjustment may be necessary.

Force as a conflict management strategy entails taking advantage of one’s professional position or other type of authority to coerce or intimidate others and ultimately get what one wants. This tactic can often be perceived as an abuse of power or authority. Yet there are situations in which using force is necessary to achieve the desired results. For instance, managers and others in positions of authority often must impose their will to make a quick decision or resolve a conflict efficiently.

When someone uses accommodation, he or she gives in to the other party and does not assert his or her own interests. While it may appear to demonstrate weakness, sometimes this is an appropriate strategy when the issue is unimportant to one of the parties. He or she chooses to accommodate the other one's wishes in order to resolve the issue effectively.

Avoidance typically involves staying out of the situation altogether, by pretending that it does not exist or by letting someone else handle it. Unlike other conflict management styles, this is not usually the most effective strategy for solving workplace disputes. Unless some other issues take precedence and there is some benefit to putting off a confrontation, avoidance may be more likely to lead to long-term problems between employees.

Compromise is a popular option when choosing among conflict management styles. In a compromise, each of the parties agrees to let some desires or needs go in order to gain others. As a result, neither side gets everything that it wants.

When collaborating, the parties attempt to find the optimal solution in which everyone wins. Of all conflict management styles, this strategy typically involves the most open communication. Each side usually makes a conscious effort to hear and understand the other party’s objectives, while effectively communicating their own desires.

Failing to communicate is one way to create a hostile work environment. Most conflict experts agree that communication and collaboration are more likely to lead to respect and harmony in the workplace. Some managers, however, might be unsure of the best way to deal with small problems or urgent issues that do not have time to be worked out through a long collaborative process. In these cases, it is usually up to the workplace supervisors to use their best judgment to arrive at a satisfactory outcome.

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Discussion Comments

By mutsy — On Jan 22, 2011


I wanted to say that many large companies that also have a union have a grievance committee.

At AT&T the employees can submit a written grievance to the grievance committee in order to get resolution on a conflict that the employee was having.

The grievance committee is made up of a member of management that looks at the issue and tries to solve the problem in the most just and equitable way.

However, if the employee is not satisfied with the results that the manager provided, the problem gets escalated to a superior manager and can be reversed. This is called a grievance appeal.

For example, if an employee wanted to request two weeks off in January, but the immediate supervisor declined the request even though the employee not only bought a cruise for that timeframe but there was nothing in his union contract that stated that the month of January was blocked off for time off.

The matter went to a grievance committee and the manager in charge decided to allow the employee to take the time off because if not he knew that it would be overturned upon appeal because the manager was making an arbitrary decision that was inherently unfair.

This is why true conflict resolution also has to be fair because if not it can backfire.

By Sunny27 — On Jan 19, 2011

Sunshine31-Some conflict management techniques involve consensus. This is usually used when you have contract negotiations like in a union.

Here the union leaders negotiate with the management of the company in order to find an acceptable solution that both sides can live with.

By sunshine31 — On Jan 17, 2011

SurfNTurf-However,if the conflict involves two coworkers then there has to be a form of negotiation in order to ensure that both sides feel satisfied with the result.

If the conflict involves a supervisor and an employee the problem can be more difficult to solve because the supervisor generally has more power than the employee so a third party might be called in to assist with the conflict resolution.

For example, an employee that accuses a supervisor of harassment might not feel comfortable going directly to his supervisor regarding his feelings for fear of retribution.

This employee instead might file a grievance with the human resource department and they will work with the supervisor and the employee in order to aid in the conflict resolution.

This form of interpersonal conflict management is probably the most common in which problems develop. Since we are all individuals we may not interpret a situation the same way.

One person may find an off colored joke offensive, while another person might think that it is entertaining.

Many companies spend a lot of money teaching their managers about conflict resolution management because it saves the company money in legal fees in the long run.

By surfNturf — On Jan 15, 2011

Conflict management skills are essential for all members of management. Conflict resolution is probably the most time consuming part of a manager’s job and if the proper conflict management techniques are used subsequent problems will take less time to resolve and will not impact the bottom line as much.

When there is a conflict regarding an employee either with another employee or with the employee’s performance level it is important to execute a timely response to the problem before it gets worse.

Problems rarely get better by leaving them alone. Conflict resolution management really involves an understanding of the problem.

If the problem is related to the employee’s performance than a full evaluation offered to the employee can give the employee information regarding his deficiencies with an agreed upon action plan for development.

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