Experiencing conflict is a part of human nature. Working through conflict in healthy and productive ways is how we build trusting relationships and problem-solving skills.
Leaders are no strangers to conflict, whether they’re a direct participant in conflict or merely facilitating a resolution within their team. Good leaders realize the inevitability and benefit of conflict in team dynamics, and great leaders are masters at managing all types of conflict.
Conflict comes in different forms, just as resolution and conflict strategies do. Conflict management is an acquired leadership skill in which you can discern the different types of conflict, while also matching each one with the appropriate conflict strategy. Let’s take a deeper look at the five different conflict strategies.
Many people consider compromise to be the best form of conflict resolution. While this strategy allows for both parties to win some, it also allows for both to lose some. Each party must sacrifice something to allow for the other party’s ideas and strategies to become a part of the overall plan. Compromise is thought to be fair, yet not all parties walk away feeling satisfied with the outcome.
Because compromising is a lose-lose situation, this strategy isn’t often useful. Consider utilizing a compromise when you need a temporary solution or if both parties have equally important goals. While compromising is considered a quick fix, collaborating will more often lead to better, more integrated outcomes.
In most conflict scenarios, collaborating will lead to a progressive solution in which every party is fully satisfied. Collaboration involves all parties in the conflict coming together to create space for everyone’s goals, concerns, and ideas. While the process of reframing the problem and solution may be time- and energy-consuming, the result is a unified solution that addresses everyone’s contributions.
When multiple parties come together to reach a win-win solution, creativity is sparked as opposing groups are able to bounce ideas off of one another. Comprehensive solutions are then created that may not have been a thought had just one party brainstormed alone. Following collaboration, team members typically walk away feeling a higher level of trust with everyone involved. Collaboration is especially necessary when the relationships and solution outcome are long-term.
Solving conflict with a competing style is just as it sounds. Two or more parties act assertively and do not consider the others’ needs or ideas. Each group pursues their own individual goals without concern for the other groups. Competing results in a clearcut win-lose situation.
This type of management style could quickly solve issues that are time-pressed. However, because competing has a strong focus on the outcome, not the relationship, this management style is not recommended to use within the same organization, as it keeps relationships from forming and building. However, it may be a helpful strategy to use with another company when bidding for a client or project.
Accommodating is the opposite of competing. Instead of pursuing your individual goals without consideration of others, you seek to satisfy the other party. Some self-sacrifice is involved in this particular management style as you work against your own goals to help the other party achieve theirs.
A couple scenarios match well with accommodation. For example, if the other party is much more knowledgeable on the topic or has an obviously better solution, accommodating to their plan may be in your best interest. Accommodating can also be effective if you don’t have much interest in the outcome and want to preserve your relationship with the other party.
People who avoid conflict are typically afraid of it. They may be uncomfortable with the tension involved in solving a conflict, feel threatened by others’ approaches, or be unwilling to work with others and hear their ideas. No matter the reason, the result is everyone walking on eggshells around each other and the topic of conflict. You aren’t helping others’ pursue their goals nor are you pursuing your own. Relationships are unable to develop as it is nearly impossible without addressing the elephant in the room.
Avoiding a conflict can be damaging to your company. Ignoring an issue for a short period of time may be wise if the conflict has high emotions. However, conflicts typically don’t work themselves out alone, and eventually the issue will need to be appropriately addressed for a long-term outcome.
All five strategies have their time and place, and some should be more utilized than others. As a leader, take some time to reflect on the strategies you gravitate toward when conflict arises. Recognize what has worked and hasn’t worked in the past. For conflict management strategies that haven’t previously helped, perhaps it was just an issue of a mismatched conflict to strategy. Consider trying a new approach that better addresses the given conflict.
Don’t let conflict intimidate you. The focus of a leader should be finding the most efficient and appropriate style in which to work through it. To get more insight from a team of experts on conflict management and leadership development strategies, get in touch with Knowted.