There are lots of ways in which we classify and categorise ourselves and others as a means of seeking to understand the best way to connect, collaborate and communicate. We all use our knowledge and insight about our preferred leadership and communication style to help navigate workplace relationships and create a positive workplace dynamic and culture.
When workplace conflict arises, our ‘default’ approach to responding to and managing conflict can either help or hinder the conflict resolution process. Understanding your own conflict management style and the style of those you work with is a fantastic way of minimising the risk of workplace conflict occurring, enabling constructive conversations rather than conflict, and enabling the swift and successful resolution of conflict when it arises.
Not sure what your conflict management style is? Read on…
Conflict Management Styles
Accommodator- People with this conflict management style tend to cooperate to a point where they do not consider their own goals and needs. This dynamic often plays out in the workplace when there is a power imbalance between the individuals, for example between a Manager and Subordinate. The subordinate may, in other circumstances, take on a different conflict management Style but when in conflict with their manager, tend to accommodate where possible given the power balance that exists.
Where an employee has conflict with their manager or person in a position of authority, it is important the person responsible for resolving the conflict manages power imbalances, ensuring both can voice their issues in a safe and constructive environment.
Avoider- People with this conflict management style avoid conflict at all costs, they find it difficult to have challenging conversations and express their concerns and when conflict arises, they retreat. Avoiding conflict in the short term when emotions are high can be beneficial and is when this style is best suited. However, as a long-term solution avoidance it is not the solution because unresolved conflict can lead to bullying accusations, investigations and Workcover claims.
If you have an employee that avoids having difficult conversations or dealing with workplace challenges, speaking with them one on one and uncovering what lies beneath the avoidance is a crucial first step. Commonly, what lies beneath the avoidance is fear of being judged and/or fear of being disliked. Often conflict avoiders find it difficult to express their opinion and advocate for themselves, it is important we create a space for them to do so.
Collaborator- This style is the opposite of the avoider; collaborators tend to be assertive and cooperative. They seek to resolve conflict by collaborating with the other person to ensure solutions are developed that meet both of their needs. In this way, both sides get what they need, and strong working relationships can be built and maintained.
This conflict style solves problems and managers that execute a collaborative approach to conflict are often seen as skilled and competent leaders. The downside to this style is it can be time consuming, while solutions are being worked through, productivity can diminish. The adoption of this style is usually brough in externally through experienced mediators, who take on a collaborative approach in supporting employees work through their conflict.
Competitor- People with this conflict management style like to win at all costs and do not like to collaborate. These people keep stating their position until they get their way. If Managers adopt this style, it can give a perception of strength and issues appear to resolve quickly because there is no room for disagreements or discussion. Managers may adopt this style if they have to make an unipolar decision quickly and therefore cannot enter into a dialogue with employees. However, the downside to stifling robust debate as a preferred method is employees become disengaged, unhappy, and unproductive.
Compromiser- People who adopt this style seek to find middle ground by asking those involved to concede some things they may want in order to resolve the larger issue or dispute. This style is often adopted when time is of concern or where there is an urgent need for a temporary solution that does not need to be perfect. A compromising style can be useful in gaining understanding of other people’s perspectives and can set the foundation for a compromising approach in the future where employees can feel heard and understood.
Managers who adopt this approach as their default response to conflict management, can lead to employees feeling unhappy they had to give up something and if they feel they have sacrificed more than they have gained, may be less inclined to participate in conflict resolution in the future.
Knowing your default conflict management style and that of those around you can help prevent conflict, enable healthy and appropriate discourse, and support the effective management of conflict in the workplace. Wise Workplace are experts in grievance and complaints management, conflict resolution, mediation and restorative practice in the workplace. For more information about how Wise Workplace can help your organisation transform conflict into communication, reach out to our team at [email protected].
What conflict style resonates most with you? What conflict style have you seen play out most commonly in the workplace? Comment on our LinkedIn page and let us know.