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Conflict Management Styles: What They Are and Why They Matter

May 9, 2024

conflict management styles

We all have our own unique quirks, but wouldn’t everything be boring if we were the same? 

Working among people from different walks of life, whether that’s their background or skills, makes businesses stronger, but it can also cause a few problems when people don’t see eye to eye.

No one likes arguments, especially at work, but sometimes they’re unavoidable. Understanding how people, including yourself, approach difficult decisions can help keep conflicts to a minimum and result in a more productive outcome for everyone.

For managers, understanding how team members react to disputes is an important part of leadership to ensure that everyone feels heard and supported, even when opinions differ. 

Sometimes, a disagreement can be resolved simply by changing how the information is delivered. Using various employee communications software can allow teams to share important details in a way that works best for those involved in the conversation.

5 types of conflict management styles

There are five main types of conflict management styles that individuals fall under. While there may be some elements of overlap, most people have a primary communication style that determines how they respond to conflict.

1. Accommodating

Individuals with an accommodating conflict management style are more focused on the needs of others over themselves. Typical expressions of this would be allowing others to make decisions and lead the discussion or being easily persuaded to give in to different viewpoints. 

2. Avoiding

Conflict-avoidant people will usually try to end a disagreement as quickly as possible. While this may look like an accommodating conflict style, avoiding goes one step further by not wanting to begin the discussion at all. Continually rescheduling meetings around the issue or trying to delegate to someone else on the team is how this conflict management style often appears in the workplace.

3. Compromising

The compromising individual tries to find a middle ground and keep everyone happy. This can lead others in the team to feel dissatisfied because even though some of their ideas were successful, they weren’t fully accepted. However, for disputes that must come to some final conclusion, this conflict management style can be the most helpful in moving conversations forward.

4. Collaborating

Somewhat like compromising, collaborators want to find a solution that everyone is happy with. This is the more complete version of compromising, where every person involved is completely happy at the end. People with this conflict management style always look for a win-win scenario.

5. Competing

The competing conflict management style can come across as the most aggressive. People with this style are firm in their viewpoints and unwavering in disagreements — either you all agree to this person’s view, or the dispute will continue. 

Benefits of understanding conflict management styles

It’s easy to think that any type of conflict is negative, but that’s not entirely true. Constructive discussion and debate are often necessary to move a project forward and work towards a more complete outcome as a group. 

Whether you’re a business leader looking to effectively manage a team or an employee looking to work better with your colleagues, some of the benefits of understanding conflict management styles are:

  • Improved collaboration. When everyone on the team knows how best to communicate with each other, more open and honest discussions can happen. It also allows different perspectives to have equal weight in disputes, helping build an atmosphere of cooperation and teamwork.
  • Enhanced problem-solving. Being able to communicate across conflict management styles is excellent critical thinking practice. And when this plays out, more creative ideas often emerge. By trying to find a good solution from different viewpoints, teams can identify the root causes of a problem and the most important elements needed for a positive outcome.
  • Increased efficiency and productivity. Time arguing is time wasted. By approaching disputes with an understanding of how individuals will likely come to the table, everyone can stay focused on providing their own views as succinctly as possible and come to an agreement faster.

How to work with different conflict management styles

Depending on the mix of conflict management styles in a team, disputes can be fairly harmoniously resolved, or they could end up in a stalemate for days or weeks. That’s why it’s helpful to know how to approach every disagreement before it even begins.

Stay calm

Even for those with a competing conflict management style, keeping conversations in a calm and collected tone will make everyone involved feel more comfortable. This is especially important if a complex topic or contentious point is raised. 

While people may not agree with each other, remaining respectful of everyone’s viewpoint removes some of the stress and anxiety from the situation.

Don't take sides

For managers, it’s important not to side with one individual or another when points are being raised. This can create unnecessary hostility for those whose thoughts are being rejected. Acting as a mediator in these disagreements can bring them to an end sooner and help reach a final outcome more efficiently.

Find the source of conflict

Disputes can quickly stray from the real source of the problem when different conflict management styles are involved. Not only can this prolong arguments, but it can sometimes lead individuals to voice irrelevant opinions that could ultimately damage their relationships with their coworkers. This is particularly the case if team members frequently run up against each other and several issues are simmering under the surface.

Sticking to the facts and keeping both parties focused on the main issue and objectives is key to creating productive disagreements and finding satisfying resolutions. It may be necessary to bring others into the discussion, particularly if the dispute concerns a larger project involving multiple people. Not only will this keep the disagreement more focused on the pressing issue, but it can also help leaders get to the relevant details more quickly.

Give each person time to share

Each person involved in the dispute should have an equal amount of time to voice their opinions and provide their perspective on the situation. This may need to happen privately, between manager and employee, or this could be part of a group meeting where time is allocated to each team member.

Find a common goal

Ultimately, everyone should be working towards the same outcome. Reminding employees of this overarching goal can help bring the bigger picture back into view and resolve some disputes more quickly when smaller points don’t look so important. 

Disagreements don't have to be disappointing

Arguments are inevitable when you’re working in a diverse team. But remember that diversity is also what makes the team great. 

Finding ways to work well together in a respectful environment with open and honest communication is the key to ensuring that when disputes arise, those involved feel heard and a positive outcome can be reached.

Evaluate how well your team members are handling conflict and the impact this has on their work with performance management systems for tracking employee progress and development.

employee communications tools
To disagree or not to disagree

Find the right way to connect with your team using employee communications tools that make sense for them.

employee communications tools
To disagree or not to disagree

Find the right way to connect with your team using employee communications tools that make sense for them.

Conflict Management Styles: What They Are and Why They Matter Conflict management styles are the specific ways people handle disagreements. Learn why these are important to understand, especially as a business leader.
Holly Landis Holly Landis is a freelance writer for G2. She also specializes in being a digital marketing consultant, focusing in on-page SEO, copy, and content writing. She works with SMEs and creative businesses that want to be more intentional with their digital strategies and grow organically on channels they own. As a Brit now living in the USA, you'll usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea in her cherished Anne Boleyn mug while watching endless reruns of Parks and Rec.

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