5 Most Effective Conflict Management Styles (+When To Use Each One)

Mary Clare Novak
Mary Clare Novak  |  May 14, 2019

The modern workplace is a melting pot of people with different backgrounds, skill sets, and visions of success.

Diversity in the workplace is a beautiful thing. It brings about new ideas and perspectives that certain groups would otherwise never consider.

However, when all of these people are in the same place, conflict is bound to arise. Before and after that happens, conflict management strategies and styles should be on the minds of every employee, no matter their ranking.

What is conflict management?

Conflict management refers to the process of eliminating the negative results of conflict while also highlighting the positives that come along with it.

When working on any team, conflict management is a necessary skill. Your business can run like a well-oiled machine, but conflict will persist.

Contrary to what most would think, conflict in the workplace isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When coworkers experience conflict, it not only means they are comfortable enough to express their opinions, but lessons in internal communication are learned on both ends during the conflict management process.

While some personality types might stick with one method in particular, there is more than one way to resolve a conflict. Actually, there are five.

No matter the cause or the effort put into resolving it, if a conflict exists, one of these styles is used to manage it.

5 conflict management styles

The five conflict management styles all have the goal of bringing the involved parties to a resolution. They just have different ways of getting there.

Each style exhibit different levels of cooperativeness and assertiveness. Let’s take a close look at each one and when they should be used.

conflict management styles graphImage courtesy of Ram Pages

Accommodating

An accommodating conflict management style is used when you set aside your own wants or needs and focus on those of others. You leave your own concerns behind and accommodate for those of someone else.

When to use it: 
- When you are wrong.
- When you don’t care about the issue as much as the other person.
- When you want the workplace to be peaceful.
- When there is no point in arguing.

This style can often be seen as weak, but this is not the case. A big part of conflict management is realizing when elongating the resolution process will only make things worse.

Avoiding

An avoiding conflict management style ignores the situation altogether. Either one or both of the people involved in the conflict steer clear of it.

When to use it:
- When the conflict is meaningless.
- When you don’t have the time to manage the conflict.
 - When you aren’t sure how you feel about the issue yet.


While pressing conflicts should be immediately addressed, others aren’t worth the trouble and will eventually fizzle out, leaving no major impact on either party involved.

Compromising

A compromising conflict management style tries to find a way to partially satisfy people on both sides of the argument. Adjustments are made on both ends to resolve the conflict at hand.

When to use it: 
- When reaching a solution is more important than the solution itself.
- When you need a temporary solution.
- When you are at a standstill.


While both parties will not be fully pleased with the end result, sometimes a compromise is your best bet.

Collaborating

A collaborating style includes finding a solution that will completely appease all involved parties. A win-win situation, if you will.

When to use it: 
- When the relationship is important.
- When the final solution will have a significant impact.
- When the interests, needs, and beliefs of all involved people need to be considered.


A win-win situation is obviously the best case scenario, but it can sometimes be the hardest to reach. Honest communication is crucial when using a collaborative conflict management style. All concerns need to be openly expressed for them to be addressed in the solution.

Competing

A competing style is for all you headstrong folks. With this approach, you take a firm stance and refuse to budge until you get what you want. You are unmoved by the perspectives of the other parties involved in the conflict.

When to use it: 
- When you have to stand up for yourself, your rights, or your morals.
- When a less forceful conflict management style is ineffective.
- When nothing else is working and you have reached your last resort.


Personal beliefs, values, and needs aren’t worth compromising on. Stand strong when fighting for something that means a lot to you.

Now that you know what each conflict management style is, it is time to pick one to help resolve your current conflict. While it might seem obvious, it is worth taking the extra time to ask yourself these questions to make sure you make the right decision:

How familiar am I with this issue?

What are my viewpoints on this issue?

What are my current priorities? Is resolving this conflict one of them?

Is it possible to find a middle ground here?

Is there a way for both parties to be completely satisfied?

Is it possible to see the other side of this argument?

This quick analysis will help you better understand the situation and determine which conflict management style would be best in resolving it.

One size does not fit all

Every conflict is different, meaning there is no one right way to manage them all. A lot of factors play into which method is best for resolving conflict. Consider them all before deciding on which one to use. Choosing the right conflict management style can be the difference between resolution and uncertainty.

Struggling with conflict as a leader? Check out our resource on conflict management strategies for tips from real-life managers. 

Mary Clare Novak
Author

Mary Clare Novak

Mary Clare Novak is a Content Marketing Associate at G2 Crowd in Chicago. A recent graduate from Indiana University, she is happy to be back working in her favorite city. In her free time, you can find her doing a crossword puzzle, making a mess in the kitchen, or socializing.