Conflict in an organization can often be challenging, and yet if handled well, can be enhance the health of the organization. Conflict is unavoidable as people will have differing opinions and styles, however, when conflict is resolved effectively it can actually enhance group dynamics, work environments, and the transparency/honest levels within an organization.
Leaders often have different styles of operating during conflict. Two researchers in the 1970s created a tool called the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) which identified five different styles of dealing with conflict. The instrument says that people typically fall into one of these styles, however, it is often best to use varying styles depending on the situation. The styles are:
Competitive: Leaders who use this often know what they want and go for it. They often work from a position of power either by position, expertise, or ability to persuade. This style can be useful in emergencies or urgent situations, but can often leave people feeling resentful or hurt in non-urgent times.
Collaborative: People who use this style try to meet the needs of all involved. They can also be assertive, however, recognize that everyone is important. This style is most effective when a leader needs to bring together a variety of viewpoints, when there has been previous conflict, and/or when the situation is important to have input into.
Compromising: People who use this style try to find a solution that takes into account everyone's needs partially. This is useful when the cost of conflict is higher than losing some ground, when there is a deadline looming, and/or when those with equal strengths cannot come to a conclusion.
Accommodating: People who are accommodating often surrender their own needs for those of others. They can often be persuaded to surrender their position even when they don't need to. This person is not assertive, but highly cooperative. This can a good style when the issue is more important to the other, when peace is more important, and/or when you want to be able to collect on a favor later. Sometimes however people do not reciprocate and this approach is not the one to give the best outcome.
Avoiding: These people avoid conflict entirely. They often delegate decisions which are controversial or accept default decisions so as not to hurt other people's feelings. It can be useful if victory is not possible, when the issue is not that important, and/or if someone is in a better position to solve it. But typically this can be an ineffective approach.
Which style are you? Do you use different styles in different situations or do you have a default style? Is your style effective?
Monica Thakrar has over 18 years experience in business focused mainly on strategy, change management, leadership development, training and coaching resulting in successful implementations of large scale transformation programs.