Effective leadership requires learning how individuals on teams manage conflict. How people manage conflict can have long-term implications for the overall success of an organization. We all have preferred conflict management styles. In total, the experts recognize five common conflict management styles. There isn’t one ideal style for handling conflict. In fact, each method of handling conflict is considered to have its strengths and weaknesses.
The avoidant strategy is where one team member withdraws from the problem. Actively suppressing the issue can give individual team members time to cool off if there’s been conflict. But eventually, problems need to be addressed so the avoidant strategy isn’t one that can work over the long term.
The dominant strategy is when a team member has more concern for themselves than other members of the team. This can be a useful strategy if there is a pressing deadline or an unpopular decision that needs to be made. While the dominant strategy can sometimes be a good short-term strategy, it shouldn’t be the only method in which team members resolve conflict.
The obliging strategy usually entails one team member playing down any differences while emphasizing the similarities between the conflicting people. The accommodating team member often neglects their own needs to satisfy the concerns of the other person. While this can be a good occasional strategy to employ, it should never be the only method that the team uses to manage conflict as resentments can build over time if only one member of a team ever gets their voice heard and needs met.
The accommodating strategy is when team members show moderate concern for each other when faced with conflict. It is characterized by a give-and-take approach where each team member is prepared to give up something of value. Generally speaking, the accommodating strategy can help the team make good decisions but if team members aren’t explaining their positions fully, the team may not be in a position to make the best decisions as it is not utilizing all of the input of its team members that it otherwise could.
The collaborative strategy is when team members attempt to identify the problem, generate and weigh alternative solutions and move forward with a group decision. This strategy is useful when trying to solve complex problems and it involves a high concern for all members of the team. The downside of the collaborative strategy is that it can be time-consuming to implement and can slow down the speed of which the team can make decisions.
Elaine Allan, BA, MBA
Technology & Business Blogger
Vancouver, BC, Canada