As an expert in your field, you have probably heard about 5 main styles of managing a conflict. Some styles are openly hostile against the opponents, others tend to require the involvement of both parties, and some are outward give-ins. Naturally, among them collaboration looks the best style of all: everyone is fully satisfied and listened to. But is it always possible to resort to this particular style and how to make the right choice?
If you are currently training conflict resolution in your team or your company, then you look deeper into the matter and know the important secret about conflict management. Namely, the choice of the specific solution depends on two factors: the relative importance of the goal and the relative importance of relationships in the team. When you measure carefully both factors against each other for each particular case, you realize what style is appropriate right now.
This style is OK when you have time and resources for careful exploration of all viewpoints. People involved should be interested in the result, the optimal win-win solution should theoretically exist, and both people and the outcome matter (for you or your company). If any of the conditions is missing, you will only waste time in empty talks, while other, pushier solutions would be more appropriate. So pay attention to them while training conflict resolution in the team.
It is not as wicked as it sounds, since you can compete for the sake of some worthy cause or protect someone weaker in the dispute. This style is fine if there is no time and place for debates, some core issue is challenged by another party and you know you are 100% right. But you cannot go ahead and ram your suggestion into others if you need them to contribute and if it will really degrade the other party. The conflict will then get beyond control with unpredictable consequences.
This style often looks like a good alternative to collaboration, since everyone sacrifices and gains something. It means that everyone’s taken into account. But this style can be safely applied only if any solution is better than a deadlock if people are more important than goals, each party is equal in its influence on the situation, and a better hybrid solution cannot be achieved. Compromise is out of the question if the solution should be sustainable and practical, if the conflict parties are in imbalance of power, and if the issue is very subtle and multifaceted.
This style works well when your primary aim is to keep peace with the other side, when you cannot influence the decision-making and when you are not deeply invested in the matter of conflict. As you will learn while training conflict resolution skills, accommodation is not an option when you know for sure that the other side is mistaken (or tries to mislead the others). Then, the meek acceptance of this wicked behavior is the path to disaster.
Believe it or not, but this style also has its time and place on the conflict management menu. When the emotions are boiling and steam is bursting forth at the cracks, avoiding each other is the best strategy. Let the emotions cool, and then try the compromising approach. Another case where avoiding is OK is when you have interest neither in people nor in goals. You just let others fuss and do things and do not give them a second thought. As you can guess, this style cannot be used when you need a viable solution and are charged with settling the conflict. Such a pity, though.
Training Conflict Resolution: Final Tip
As you see, picking the right tool for conflict management is not that easy. But once you learn to analyze the stakes and the risks, you will manage conflicts with confidence. So undertake a worthy training and become a true conflict whisperer of your company.