How Do You Handle Conflict?

Looking at the five styles of handling conflict

6711653_sHow do you get along with your co-workers? How about with your boss? Developing good working relationships is one of the greatest workplace challenges.

Conflict doesn’t necessarily mean an out and out fight. Consider things like working as part of a team. Are you the cooperative person who makes sure that everyone is heard or are you the assertive type focused on making sure that your idea is the one that comes to fruition? Your answer says a lot about your preferred conflict-handling style.

There are five ways that people handle conflict, According to Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann, creators of the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument® (TKI®). While everyone uses more than one style, depending on the situation, most of us favor one style over the others.

Whatever style we use most often can have a big influence on how people view us. It can be the difference between being looked at as a team-player or someone who always needs to win.

Here’s a summary of the five-conflict mode types

Competing - This mode is assertive and uncooperative. The goal here is to win. While this might be appropriate in some situations, for example when you are standing up for your rights, it doesn’t work well when you’re trying to work on a group project. Signs you’re using this too often: others consider you unreasonable.

Accommodating - This is the opposite of competing. People who most often use this are more concerned with the other person’s concerns at the expense of their own desires. While this may make you popular with more assertive types, constantly yielding to others’ point of view may lead to resentment. Signs that you are using this too much: others may not respect you.

Avoiding - In this mode the conflict goes unaddressed. This may take the form of side-stepping an issue or trying to postponing a conflict to another time. One problem: others may have difficulty getting your views. Also, decisions may be settled by default.

Collaborating - This style is assertive and cooperative – the opposite of avoiding. People who rely on this look for the underlying concerns of all parties and strive to find an alternative that meets everyone’s concerns. The goal is to find a creative solution to the problem. Signs that you’re using this too much: others think you waste time discussing issues that are unimportant.

Compromising - This mode falls in-between assertive and cooperative. The goal is to quickly find a mutually acceptable solution that satisfies all parties. Signs that this is overused: you are unable to make concessions to others.

Each of these styles works in different situations. Sometimes there is not enough time for collaboration and so you must come to a compromise. And sometimes it’s a good idea to put off a decision until cooler heads prevail.

The keys are to know which styles you turn to most often and to learn how to use the most appropriate style for the situation. Balancing your use of the various conflict-handling styles will lead to more productive work relationships.

About Annette Richmond, MA

Annette Richmond, MA is Executive Editor of career-intelligence.com. Having changed careers several times, including working as a writer, recruiter and vocational counselor, she has a unique perspective on career management. She contributes career-related articles to various other sites including TalentCulture, ForbesWoman and LinkedIn. She also coaches a few highly-motivated individuals, visit her site for information.

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