Workplace Conflict

Handling Interpersonal Conflict – What’s Your Style?

Handling Interpersonal Conflict – What’s Your Style?

We all experience interpersonal conflict in some way both at work and in our personal lives. How we handle that conflict is critical to a successful resolution. Each of us, along with our varying personalities, have distinct ways of handling conflict. Researchers have identified five interpersonal conflict-handling styles:

Collaborating: win-win approach, looks at things from another person’s perspective and works to find a solution that works for all parties.
Compromising: seeks a middle ground, give and take method.
Accommodating: wants the conflict to go away, will go along with others to make them happy.
Competing: “what I say goes” approach, wants to win and seeks to convince others of their position.
Avoiding: disregards conflict completely or tries to remain neutral.

While most people may innately employ one or two styles on a regular basis, we can navigate through any of the five styles depending on the situation and the other parties involved in the conflict. For instance, you may use an accommodating style when having a conflict with a spouse because you want your spouse to be happy but may use a compromising style at work on a team project where there are due dates and deliverables.

The level of cooperation and assertion in each of the styles vary greatly. Scoring very low on the cooperative and assertive scale (see figure below) is the avoiding style which is the most damaging and unproductive style as nothing gets resolved. So what style does a great employee have? The collaborating style, which ranks high on assertiveness and cooperation, is the style most valued. Having great conflict management skills is necessary in any environment and can be developed or changed with proper coaching.

Interpersonal Conflict Management Styles