Conflict Management – Styles, Skills & Examples
Proper conflict management techniques are an essential part of building a united team.
Conflicts are bound to occur within any team, but it is how you react to them which creates the team dynamic and establishes values. Preventing conflict is equally important.
However, many managers and leaders struggle to reign in conflicts. Often, small disagreements turn into major roadblocks to a team’s success.
This stalls progress and decrease every team member’s enthusiasm, not just those involved in the conflict.
Thankfully, leaders can decrease the likelihood and severity of conflict with just a few simple techniques.
This article outlines how you can manage conflict and the many benefits of doing so.
Conflict Management – Theory and Definition
Proper conflict management involves preventing conflicts and decreasing the negative effects of any conflicts that do arise.
If managers master conflict management, they can restore team member’s trust in one another, minimize any damage to relationships, boost customer satisfaction, and create favorable business outcomes such as increased revenue.
Managing conflicts does not mean pointing fingers at employees and placing blame on individuals. Rarely, there will be a singular individual at fault for conflict.
Managers must be able to comprehend how conflict starts and who is involved fully. Leaders will have to consider multiple ways to look at one’s traits to see if they have caused conflict or hurt the business.
Questioning the status quo, although often viewed as a negative trait, shows an employee is truly engaged.
Conflict does not always negatively impact businesses and leadership.
It can be a sign that employees trust each other enough to debate issues and challenges their colleagues.
They may believe that their fellow employees have the same goals as them, meaning escalating a conflict would not be in anyone’s best interest.
5 Examples of Conflict Management Styles – Ultimate Guide
Here are examples of the conflict management styles described with pros vs cons:
Avoiding conflict entails ignoring or evading conflict and removing involved parties from the situation. Often, such managers will reassign tasks, pause projects, or recreate deadlines to keep the conflict under control.
This style should be more commonly used in the short term. Cooling down offers a multitude of benefits to all parties and it gives everyone a chance to rethink their next move.
Pros: Cooling down allows individuals to make decisions in a clearer and calmer manner. It allows employees to reconsider how they want to approach conflict. This shows managers have trust in their employees, as this style is more laissez-faire.
Cons: In certain moments, using this strategy makes managers seem incapable of getting involved in disagreements.
Accolades prioritize the other party’s goals and desires before their own, allowing them to get what they desire even if it means making a sacrifice. Accommodating can be appropriate during certain conflicts.
If you do not care about the issue, believe you may be wrong in your stance, or if fighting for your cause is simply not worthwhile, giving in may be a fair decision. After all, there are some battles that are just not worth fighting.
This style is very cooperative and works well to quickly solve minor conflicts.
Pros: Managers are usually viewed as laid back. Solving small conflicts becomes significantly easier and employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.
Cons: Respect for leaders may decrease, as they could be viewed as weak or easily manipulated. Avoid this strategy when the issue is large and important to you.
For those using this strategy, compromise is not an option. In fact, even hearing someone else’s perspective does not occur for competitive conflict managers.
One party is extremely firm in their demands and does not back down unless their desire is fulfilled. In cases where there is a clear moral and immoral way to proceed, this strategy could get used.
Sometimes managers simply do not have time to assess the best conflict management strategy and default to competition. It stops conflicts quickly but simultaneously decreases employee’s morale.
Pros: Managers can display their power and strength. They will be viewed as people who are invested in their morals. Disputes are quickly solved without deliberation.
Cons: Competitive leaders can be seen as power-hungry or authoritarian. The lack of discussion leads to unhappy and unproductive employees in the long term, and finding the best solutions does not occur without input.
This style focuses on finding common ground by asking both parties to compromise elements of their desires to reach a solution.
Both parties have to give up something to find a way to end the conflict, but at times, small compromises are less important than peace.
The strategy is used when a perfect solution is not necessary or when decisions must be made quickly. Use the strategy rarely to avoid resentment.
Pros: Both parties will understand the other individual’s perspective and solve the issue quickly. The discussion about specific compromises fosters collaboration down the road. Managers who compromise are viewed as hands-on and involved.
Cons: Neither party will be completely happy and satisfied with the interaction. If someone sacrifices too much, they will be less likely to work with the other person in the future. Managers may be viewed as averse to collaboration.
This is the best style to use long-term, but developing and using it takes the most time and effort.
Both parties have their needs met and a solution that satisfies everyone’s desires is found.
This involves the individuals coming together to discuss the conflict and brainstorming a solution together.
The strategy is used when the relationship between the parties is valued and when crafting the best solution is critical.
Pros: All parties leave satisfied. A legitimate and effective solution is found through working with both sides. Collaborative managers tend to be viewed as skilled and knowledgeable.
Cons: This is a time-consuming strategy to learn and implement. It can interfere with deadlines. Also, the style is not efficient for small conflicts.
What are Conflict Management Skills and Why are they Important?
It is important for employees and employers to prioritize understanding how to solve conflicts rather than avoiding them entirely.
Workers with conflict management skills effectively manage disputes and remain productive.
Outcomes are more positive when employees learn to communicate clearly and respectfully and stand up for their own values while valuing other’s opinions.
If employees wish to impress their manager, learning how to resolve conflict should be a top priority.
Improper communication can lead to a confused and dysfunctional team, leading to disagreements and resentment over time. If conflicts are not addressed, they will simply develop out of control.
To avoid this, managers seek our employees with conflict management skills. Such skills include communication, emotional intelligence, empathy, problem-solving, creativity, positivity, stress management, and so on.
Conflict Management Tips: How to Deal with Employees Who Don’t Get Along
Learn how to deal with employees before conflicts occur. Doing so gives you time to develop a strategy for long term success and minimizes damage to any employee relationships.
View the following tips to see ways to manage employees who do not get along.
Understand the Nature of the Conflict
Do not believe rumors or make assumptions when conflicts arise. You must get involved by directly speaking with the employees involved in the feud.
Ensure that the conflict is not based on discrimination. Look at your policies against discrimination and ensure both parties are following them.
If you find the core of the problem deals with one party’s identity, protect that individual and have a serious value conversation with the policy violator. Otherwise, consider how else the conflict may have started.
It could be different work styles or values being pitted against each other, or client demands could be contributing to tension. In either case, find the cause of conflict, address it, and ensure it does not get worse.
Encourage Employees to Work it out Themselves
Most business owners value independence, both for themselves and their employees.
Getting overly involved in the conflict can increase the stress on employees and make you seem as though you favor certain employees over others.
You must create healthy habits with your employees before allowing them to be more independent.
There are a few techniques to help you do this:
- positive reinforcement – rewarding positive behavior
- negative reinforcement – removing negative outcomes after positive behavior,
- negative punishment – removing positive stimulus after negative action,
- positive punishment – presenting negative stimulus after negative behavior.
Using these strategies can help your employees determine what behavior is and what behavior isn’t acceptable in your workplace.
Over time, giving them more independence over conflict will result in less micromanagement but also less negative reactions, as they have a strong understanding of your standards.
Listen to Both Sides
Do not worry about staff members who are not involved in the conflict at first. Rather, immediately place your attention on the group of people who are engaged in the fighting.
Have all people share their side of the story, as they will feel acknowledged and you will gather valuable information. Ensure you focus on facts over feelings.
Do not take sides, as this will only make the conflict escalate. You must remain objective.
After both employees share their perspectives, ask them to brainstorm solutions if they are calmer. Otherwise, separating them may be appropriate.
Determine the Real Issue Together
During conflicts, employees often stop reasoning and get overcome by emotions. They are often too angry to truly understand the root cause of their problem.
Managers should calm both parties down and listen. Have a peaceful conversation with both employees.
Sometimes, this means having two separate conversations if the employees are too heated. Once the employees are not so overwhelmed, they can more clearly communicate with you.
Find a Solution
Conflicts are not always awful; in fact, they can be necessary at times. Additionally, you should realize employees simply have to work well enough to finish work (they do not have to love each other).
Teach employees when conflict is and is not appropriate. Reorganize teams if necessary. Give people time to relax if a conversation gets intense or conflict begins.
If conflicts continue to arise, it may be time to reconsider a certain employee’s position. Their values may not align with yours, which causes conflict and brings down the entire team.
Teach Them How to Communicate
Communication is key to solving conflict. Both parties must be able to discuss their goals, desires, willingness to compromise, and other aspects of ending the conflict.
Lots of disagreements between staff signals it is time for you to teach your team about proper communication.
There are multiple courses you can have employees take or different techniques employees can learn to communicate well with the rest of the group.
Lead By Example
Create a standard for employees and use yourself as an example of proper behavior. You must first be open and honest with yourself before you demand employees to do the same.
Start by addressing your own communication and conflict management skills, work on your empathy, try out multiple conflict management styles, and truly listen if you ever get involved in a conflict.
You will gain experience in conflict management, so your insights and tips will be more valuable to employees.
Also, some team members may be more excited by the idea of conflict management if they see their leader working on such skills.
Frequently Asked Questions About Conflict Management
What is an Example of Conflict Management?
Conflict management can be done in a multitude of ways. For instance, suppose two coworkers are assigned to work on a project.
They begin peacefully, but as a deadline approaches, their personalities and goals begin to clash.
One individual values creating the perfecting project presentation, while the other prioritizes getting the work done in time.
They may get frustrated with each other at first, but realize getting emotional is only going to escalate their problem. They take some time to relax and think about solutions.
Together, they decide there is a way to both get the work done before the deadline and ensure it is quality (they could have also asked management to change the deadline).
This is one scenario where conflict management is used.
What are Conflict Management Strategies?
Conflict management strategies are the ways individuals approach to conflict. They help employees and leaders find solutions while maintaining their relationships with other parties involved in the conflict.
The end goal for using conflict management strategies is to get back on track and de-escalate the conflict.
There are multiple types of strategies, which include avoiding, competing, collaborating, accommodating, or compromising when faced with a conflict.
Each strategy should be used in certain situations, but you may also develop a dominant strategy that you default to.
Which Conflict Style is the Best?
The best conflict style to use in an altercation depends on your values, how important the problem is, who is involved, and other factors.
However, generally speaking, the best style is the collaborative style, especially for long-term problem solving and relationship building.
This style ensures both sides feel heard and that a win-win solution is found.
However, you may not be able to constantly use the style. It takes time, so using it when deadlines are strict and crucial to adhere to would not be a great decision.
At these times, consider using an accommodating or competitive style, depending on how much the solution matters to you.
These styles should only be reserved to situations where a decision must be quickly made, though.
Consider the pros and cons of each style before using one, but establish the collaborative style as a default.
Overall Conclusion On Conflict Management
As a leader, you should be committed to growth while ensuring your team is satisfied and fulfilled with their job.
When conflicts arise, your instinct may be to get emotional or look to the past to pick aside.
Ensure you set aside such emotional reactions, and rather choose to speak with team members directly.
Teach them about ways to manage their conflicts, and only intervene when it is truly necessary as independence is an element of strengthening your manager-employee relationship.
Speaking about conflict management has a plethora of benefits, including increased revenue, more trust between employees, continued collaboration, and strengthened empathy.
You can also avoid an immense amount of drama and negativity by managing conflict.
Conflict in and of itself is not always negative, so you as a leader must learn when to get involved and when to be hands-off.
Remember the benefits of acquiring this skill and continue being team-oriented for long-term success.
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