What Is Your Conflict Resolution Style?

How do you deal with conflict? It’s probably different from the way that your colleagues handle things. The way that we deal with conflict in the workplace varies with our individual personalities, our experiences growing up (fun fact: including whether or not we went to preschool), and how we’ve learned to manage conflicts in previous jobs. Within any one office environment, you have people who deal with conflict well and some people who deal with conflict not so well. You also have people who deal with conflict in one way, and a few others who deal with it in a way that is quite opposite.

Conflict resolution styles can be organized into five buckets. We all have used one of them at some point, but we may have a tendency to use one style more so than the rest. Less adaptive responses to conflict are:

  • Avoidant: You don’t give in, but you find yourself unable to state your wishes, preferences, or concerns. Essentially, you try to avoid conflict. This comes from a combination of low cooperation and low assertiveness.
  • Accommodating: You want to get along with others, often at the expense of your own preferences and concerns. You give in and let others have their way. This comes from a combination of high cooperation and low assertiveness.
  • Combative: You have little or no desire to accommodate others, and a very strong tendency to state your wishes, needs, and concerns. You see situations as win/lose and have a competitive style. This comes from a combination of low cooperation and high assertiveness.

While there is definitely a time and place to use the avoidant, accommodating, and combative styles, you don’t want to overuse them. For most situations, more adaptive responses to conflict are:

  • Compromising: You have a genuine concern for others’ perspectives, yet you are also able to state your own needs and wishes. You work together until both parties concede some things in order to maintain others. This requires some cooperation and some assertiveness.
  • Collaborative: You are very motivated to please the other side, but you also must assert your own needs and concerns. When both parties feel this desire for a mutual benefit, collaboration ensues. This requires high cooperation and high assertiveness.

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  • I completely agree,
    great aricle! I’m glad I stumbled across this website!

  • Any manager has his own way of solving conflicts. But exceptional managers can prevent conflicts from happening in the first place. Unfortunately, this category only includes few such managers. Nothing good comes out of conflicting entities of a company. It can only hurt the company’s activity, which would eventually fall on the shoulders of the employees.

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective. I suppose it depends on how you define conflict. I think task-related conflict can be quite positive and may lead to greater productivity or innovation–relationship conflict is the one that usually poses a problem. The way we deal with task conflict determines whether it leads to something positive or whether it eventually transforms into relationship conflict. I don’t think workplace conflict can be prevented 100% nor would it be advisable. 

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