5 Strategies For Dealing With Conflict

5 strategies for dealing with conflictConflict in the workplace seems to be a common occurrence these days.

It’s understandable.  After all, different people are going to have different ideas, different beliefs, different needs and different values.  

(and thank god, because wouldn’t life be boring if we were all the same?)

And the truth is that conflict can occur in any relationship, not just in the workplace…

SO, it’s not a matter of what to do IF there’s conflict, but rather WHEN there’s conflict.  

Most people have a default style that they go to; especially when under stress…  

And the truth is that there are times when each style can be useful.  There is no right and wrong; no one size fits all when dealing with challenging situations.

Here are 5 different strategies for dealing with conflict and the pros and cons of each.

Ostrich1.) AVOIDANCE   –   Pretend like the conflict doesn’t exist…

prosThis can be effective if the issue isn’t urgent or isn’t very important.  Sometimes it’s better (and easier) to look the other way and let things go; especially if the conflict is centered around something trivial that will be a non-issue in time or if victory is impossible.

consPlaying the role of the proverbial ostrich can be weak, ineffective and extremely damaging to relationships over time if the underlying issues are important.  Resentment can build and often times the problem grows. Translation: Kill the monster when it’s small.  

conflict - accomodate2.)  ACCOMMODATION   –   One party concedes to the other; a willingness to meet the other person’s needs at the expense of your own…

prosThis can be an awesome style to adapt; especially if the issue matters more to the other person than it does to you.  It can also be very effective if you’re familiar with different leadership styles (superior, inferior and equal).   Often times, assuming an inferior position can neutralize a problem, which then opens up the possibility of finding common ground and a solution.

consIf you’re gonna bend, do so consciously.  Conceding consistently over time can make you feel like your ideas, thoughts and opinions are not important or valued.  

conflict - force or compete3.) COMPETITION   – Forcing a winner and a loser…

prosThis can be really advantageous in an emergency situation.   If there’s a fire, you better believe it’s useful for one person to clearly and assertively take charge.  If I’m on a plane and it’s going down, without a doubt I’m going to defer to the flight attendant.

consCoercion and intimidation typically don’t work.  When not used in an emergency situation, this style can make people feel resentful and dissatisfied.  Just like a boxing match, be prepared to go several rounds.

conflict - compromise4.) COMPROMISE   –   Both parties find a middle ground; a solution that is – at the very least – partially satisfying to both parties…

prosBoth parties give up something and both parties gain something.  This is useful when the cost of not resolving the issue far outweighs the cost of  what you’re giving up, when there’s a deadline to be met or to preserve a relationship.

consThere aren’t many downsides to compromising; especially when done consciously and with an appreciation and understanding of where the other person is coming from.  

conflict - collaborate5.) COLLABORATION   –   An attempt is made to meet everyone’s needs…

prosCollaboration can be extremely useful; especially in smaller groups.  You know the age old saying, “Two heads are better than one.”  Someone else might just have an idea or solution you hadn’t thought about, but you’ll never know if you don’t share your thoughts and feelings about the matter.

cons There’s also a saying about too many chefs in the kitchen…  or chiefs in the tribe…  You get the picture.  It can sometimes be hard to hear above the noise if there are too many voices.  There’s a difference between collaboration and a democracy.  

For more information, check out the following books:   “Getting to Yes” by Robert Fisher,  “Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most” by Douglas Stone, and The Magic of Conflict” by Thomas F Crum.

So tell me…  How do you handle conflict?

Do you address things head on and start a conversation or do you avoid conflict like the plague?  Do you truly try to understand and appreciate the other person’s point of view?  Or, does the situation become a pissing contest?

Join in the conversation below and please share this article with others you think might find it useful.  

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