5 Conflict Management Styles

To manage conflict effectively, it’s crucial to remember that there are several conflict management styles. The key to managing conflict well is choosing and executing the strategy that best fits the situation.

Although conflicts cannot be eliminated, organizations have to manage conflicts so that they do not threaten their existence. The effective management of conflicts will help minimize costs resulting from strikes, work stoppages, lockouts, and wastage.

Managing conflicts effectively will also improve the relationship between employers and employees. There is no denying the fact that an unresolved conflict has the potential to cost the organization significantly in terms of time, resources, aggression, and violence.

The reason an unresolved conflict becomes more costly is not only because of the potential for wasted resources in the midst of the conflict but also because the need for resources to find a resolution typically increases as a conflict persists. This is often attributed to the escalation of the conflict.

5 Conflict Management Styles

Many scholars (Blake and Mouton, 1964; Hall, 1969; Rahim et al., 1979 & 2002; Renwick, 1975; Thomas & Kilmann, 1976) have differentiated conflict management styles based on two dimensions: (1) concern for self and (2) concern for others.

The first dimension (e.g., assertiveness) explains the degree to which a person attempts to satisfy their concerns. The second dimension (e.g., cooperativeness) explains the degree to which a person attempts to satisfy the concerns of others.

5 Conflict Management Styles

Based on the levels of assertiveness and cooperativeness, they identified five styles for handling conflict;

  1. Forcing/Dominating/Competing (Win-Lose)
  2. Problem-Solving/Integrating/Collaborating (Win-Win)
  3. Withdrawing/Avoiding (Lose-Leave)
  4. Smoothing/Obliging/Accommodating (Yield-Lose)
  5. Compromising (Give-and-Take)

Competing Style

The Competing Style is when you stress your position without considering opposing points of view. This style is highly assertive with minimal cooperativeness; the goal is to win.

The competing style is used when a person has to take quick action, make unpopular decisions, handle vital issues, or when one needs protection in a situation where noncompetitive behavior can be exploited.

The forcing/competing style has been identified with a win-lose situation and may be described as the desire to satisfy one’s interests, regardless of the consequences or the attitude of the other party with whom you are in conflict. The aim of this style is to bargain by convincing the other party that one’s conclusion is correct and the other party’s is wrong.

To develop this style you must develop your ability to argue and debate, use your rank or position, assert your opinions and feelings, and learn to state your position and stand your ground.

Overuse of this style can lead to lack of feedback, reduced learning, and low empowerment. This can result in being surrounded by “Yes-Men”. People who overuse the competing style often use inflammatory statements due to a lack of interpersonal skills training.

When overuse is taken to an extreme the person will create errors in the implementation of the task by withholding needed information, talking behind another person’s back (or “back-stabbing”), using eye motions and gestures designed to express disapproval, and creating distractions by fiddling or interrupting.

Overuse of this style can be exhibited through constant tension or anger and occasional outbursts of violent temper. Under use of the competing style leads to a lowered level of influence, indecisiveness, slow action, and withheld contributions.

When the competing style is underused some emergent behaviors people exhibit include justifying the behaviors, demanding concessions as a condition of working on the problem, threatening separation as a way of making others give in, and launching personal attacks.

Uses:

  1. When quick, decisive action is vital – e.g., emergencies.
  2. On important issues where unpopular courses of action need to be implemented – e.g., cost cutting, enforcing unpopular rules, discipline.
  3. On issues vital to company welfare when you know you’re right.
  4. To protect yourself against people who take advantage of noncompetitive behavior.If you scored High:
    1. Are you surrounded by “yes” men?
      If so, perhaps it’s because they have learned that it’s unwise to disagree with you, or have given up trying to influence you. This closes you off from information.
    2. Are subordinates afraid to admit ignorance and uncertainties to you?
      In competitive climates, one must fight for influence and respect – which means acting more certain and confident than one feels. The upshot is that people are less able to ask for information and opinion – they are less able to learn.

If you scored Low:

  1. Do you often feel powerless in situations?
    It may be because you are unaware of the power you do have, unskilled in its use, or uncomfortable with the idea of using it. This may hinder your effectiveness by restricting your influence.
  2. Do you have trouble taking a firm stand, even when you see the need?
    Sometimes concerns for other’s feelings or anxieties about the use of power cause us to vacillate, which may mean postponing the decision and adding to the suffering and/or resentment of others.

Avoiding Style

The Avoiding Style is when you do not satisfy your concerns or the concerns of the other person. This style is low assertiveness and low cooperativeness. The goal is to delay. It is appropriate to use this style when there are issues of low importance, to reduce tensions, or to buy time.

Avoidance is also appropriate when you are in a low power position and have little control over the situation, when you need to allow others to deal with the conflict, or when the problem is symptomatic of a much larger issue and you need to work on the core issue.

To develop skills in this style use foresight in knowing when to withdraw, learn to sidestep loaded questions or sensitive areas by using diplomacy, become skillful at creating a sense of timing, and practice leaving things unresolved.

Overuse of the avoidance style can result in a low level of input, decision-making by default, and allowing issues to fester, which can produce a breakdown in communication between team members.

This can inhibit brainstorming sessions from being productive and can prevent the team from functioning. People who overuse avoidance feel they cannot speak frankly without fear of repercussions.

The overuse of conflict avoidance can often be a result of childhood experiences, past work-related incidents, and negative experiences with conflict resolution. Behaviors associated with the overuse of avoidance include being silent, sullen, and untruthful when asked if something is wrong being.

A milder form of avoidance behavior is when the team member procrastinates about getting work done and deliberately takes an opposing point of view inappropriately during a decision-making situation, or is timid, withdrawn, or shy. Extreme behaviors can occur when avoidance is overused. A person begins to be negative, critical and sarcastic.

Other extreme avoidance behaviors include becoming passive aggressive by being late and not paying attention at meetings. It also lends a greater importance to this style as compared to the other styles because you have devoted such a disproportionate amount of time to the style.)

Under use of the avoidance style results in hostility and hurt feelings. In addition, work can become overwhelming because too many issues are taken on at once, resulting in an inability to prioritize and delegate.

When avoidance is underused a team member may deny that there is a problem and allow their hurt feelings to prevent communication.

The avoiding style involves withdrawing from or evading the issues at hand. This style is characterized by a disregard for one’s own and others’ needs, interests, and goals by changing the topic and ignoring or suppressing the matter.

Uses:

  1. When an issue is trivial, of only passing importance, or when other more important issues are pressing.
  2. When you perceive no chance of satisfying your concerns – e.g., when you have low power or you are frustrated by something which would be very difficult to change (national policies, someone’s personality structure, etc.)
  3. When the potential damage of confronting a conflict outweighs the benefits of its resolution.
  4. To let people cool down – to reduce tensions to a productive level and to regain perspective and composure.
  5. When gathering more information outweighs the advantages of an immediate decision.
  6. When others can resolve the conflict more effectively.
  7. When the issue seems tangential or symptomatic of another more basic issue.If you scored High:
    1. Does your coordination suffer because people have trouble getting your inputs on issues?
    2. Does it often appear that people are “walking on eggshells?”
      Sometimes a dysfunctional amount of energy can be devoted to caution and the avoiding of issues, indicating that issues need to be faced and resolved.
    3. Are decisions on important issues made by default?

If you scored Low:

  1. Do you find yourself hurting people’s feelings or stirring up hostilities?
    (You may need to exercise more discretion in confronting issues or more tact in framing issues in non-threatening ways. Tact is partially the art of avoiding potentially disruptive aspects of an issue.)
  2. Do you often feel harried or overwhelmed by a number of issues?
    (You may need to devote more time to setting priorities – deciding which issues are relatively unimportant and perhaps delegating them to others.)

Compromising Style

The compromising style involves give-and-take, whereby both parties give up something to reach a mutually accepted decision. It is hoped that both parties will benefit from the outcome of the conflict situation, or at least the individuals involved have a sense of a fair settlement. It also ensures a win-win situation, which may lead to creative solutions and better organizational performance.

The Compromising Style is finding a middle ground or forgoing some of your concerns and committing to other’s concerns.

This style is moderately assertive and moderately cooperative; the goal is to find middle ground. The compromising style is used with issues of moderate importance, when both parties are equally powerful and equally committed to opposing views.

This style produces temporary solutions and is appropriate when time is a concern, and as a back up for the competing and collaborating styles when they are unsuccessful in resolving the situation.

Compromising skills include the ability to communicate and keep the dialogue open, the ability to find an answer that is fair to both parties, the ability to give up part of what you want, and the ability to assign value to all aspects of the issue.

Overuse of the compromising style leads to loss of long-term goals, a lack of trust, creation of a cynical environment, and being viewed as having no firm values. Overuse of compromise can result in making concessions to keep people happy without resolving the original conflict.

Under use leads to unnecessary confrontations, frequent power struggles, and ineffective negotiating.

Uses:

  1. When goals are moderately important, but not worth the effort or potential disruption of more assertive modes.
  2. When two opponents with equal power are strongly committed to mutually exclusive goals – e.g., as in labor-management bargaining.
  3. To achieve temporary settlements to complex issues.
  4. To arrive at expedient solutions under time pressure.
  5. As a backup mode when collaboration or competition fails to be successful.

If you scored High:

  1. Do you concentrate so heavily upon the practicalities and tactics of compromise that you sometimes lose sight of larger issues – principles, values, long-term objectives, or company/team welfare?
  2. Does an emphasis on bargaining and trading create a cynical climate of gamesmanship?
    Such a climate might undermine interpersonal trust and deflect attention away from the merits of the issues discussed.

If you scored Low:

  1. Do you find yourself too sensitive or embarrassed to be effective in bargaining situations?
  2. Do you find it hard to make concessions?
    Without this safety valve, you may have trouble getting gracefully out of mutually destructive arguments, power struggles, etc.

Collaborating Style

The collaborating/integrating style involves a win-win situation, whereby conflicting parties approach the situation with a positive frame of mind in search of the best course of action. The root causes are identified, debated, and selected as the best course of action to manage the conflict.

This style is also encouraged so that problems are always confronted and solved through openness, the exchange of information, and the examination of differences by all concerned parties involved in the conflict to reach a mutually acceptable solution.

The Collaborating Style is when the concern is to satisfy both sides. It is highly assertive and highly cooperative; the goal is to find a “win/win” solution.

Appropriate uses for the collaborating style include integrating solutions, learning, merging perspectives, gaining commitment, and improving relationships.

Using this style can support open discussion of issues, task proficiency, equal distribution of work amongst the team members, better brainstorming, and development of creative problem solving. This style is appropriate to use frequently in a team environment.

Collaborating skills include the ability to use active or effective listening, confront situations in a non-threatening way, analyze input, and identify underlying concerns.

Overuse of the collaborating style can lead to spending too much time on trivial matters, diffusion of responsibility, being taken advantage of, and being overloaded with work. Under use can result in using quick fix solutions, lack of commitment by other team members, disempowerment, and loss of innovation.

Uses:

  1. To find an integrative solution when both sets of concerns are too important to be compromised.
  2. When your objective is to learn – e.g., testing your own assumptions, understanding the views of others.
  3. To merge insights from people with different perspectives on a problem.
  4. To gain commitment by incorporating other’s concerns into a consensual decision.
  5. To work through hard feelings which have been interfering with an interpersonal relationship.

If you scored High:

  1. Do you spend time discussing issues in depth that do not seem to deserve it?
    Collaboration takes time and energy – perhaps the scarcest organizational resources. Trivial problems don’t require optimal solutions, and not all personal differences need to be hashed out. The overuse of collaboration and consensual decision-making sometimes represents a desire to minimize risk by diffusing responsibility for a decision or by postponing action.
  2. Does your collaborative behavior fail to elicit collaborative responses from others?
    The exploratory and tentative nature of some collaborative behavior may make it easy for others to disregard collaborative overtures, or the trust and openness may be taken advantage of. You may be missing some cues that indicate the presence of defensiveness, strong feelings, impatience, competitiveness, or conflicting interests.

If you scored Low:

  1. Is it hard for you to see differences as opportunities for joint gain – as opportunities to learn or solve problems?
    Although there are often threatening or unproductive aspects of conflict, indiscriminate pessimism can prevent you from seeing collaborative possibilities and thus deprive you of the mutual gains and satisfactions which accompany successful collaboration.
  2. Are subordinates uncommitted to your decisions or policies?
    Perhaps their own concerns are not being incorporated into those decisions or policies.

Accommodating Style

The Accommodating Style is foregoing your concerns in order to satisfy the concerns of others. This style is low assertiveness and high cooperativeness; the goal is to yield.

The accommodating style is appropriate to use in situations when you want to show that you are reasonable, develop performance, create good will, keep peace, retreat, or for issues of low importance.

Accommodating skills include the ability to sacrifice, the ability to be selfless, the ability to obey orders, and the ability to yield.

The accommodating/obliging style involves an emphasis on satisfying the interests of others at the expense of one’s own, thus conforming to the desires and wants of the other party by obliging to their requests and offering unlimited assurances and assistance.

Uses:

  1. When you realize that you are wrong (or less experienced or knowledgeable)– to allow a better position to be heard, to from others, and to show that you are reasonable. 8″
  2. When the issue is much more important to the other person than to yourself – to satisfy the needs of others, and as a goodwill gesture to help maintain a cooperative relationship.
  3. To build up social credits for later issues which are important to you.
  4. When continued competition would only damage your cause – when you are outmatched and losing.
  5. When preserving harmony and avoiding disruption are especially important.
  6. To aid in the managerial development of subordinates by allowing them to experiment and learn from their own mistakes.If you scored High:
    1. Do you feel that your own ideas and concerns are not getting the attention they deserve?
      Deferring too much to the concerns of others can deprive you of influence, respect, and recognition. It also deprives the organization of your potential contributions.
    2. Is discipline lax?
      Although discipline for its own sake may be of little value, there are often rules, procedures, and assignments whose implementation is crucial for you or the organization.

Cooperative vs. Uncooperative Conflict Management Styles

Among the five conflict management styles, integrating, obliging, and compromising are considered as “cooperative conflict management styles,” while avoiding and dominating are considered as “uncooperative conflict management styles.”

Research studies have found that cooperative conflict management styles yield more positive outcomes in organizations, whereas uncooperative conflict management styles generally produce negative outcomes.

Most Western scholars on conflict management suggest that people tend to react more positively to cooperative conflict management styles and more negatively to uncooperative conflict management styles, which, in turn, affects organizational innovation and effectiveness (Chen, Liu, & Tjosvold, 2005; Rahim et al., 2000; Song et al., 2000).

They also point out that a conscious and deliberate effort to understand conflict, confront and manage it with a positive attitude, will help a present-day organization achieve continuous improvement in its competitive edge (Cheung & Chuah, 2009).

The Integrative and Distributive Dimensions of Conflict Management

The integrative dimension – Integrating style minus Avoiding style represents a party’s concern (high-low) for self and others. The distributive dimension – Dominating style minus Obliging style represents a party’s concern (high-low) for self or others.

These two dimensions represent the problem-solving and bargaining strategies for handling conflict, respectively (Rahim et al., 2001).

The problem-solving strategy represents a party’s pursuit of their own and others’ concerns, whereas the bargaining strategy represents a party’s pursuit of their own or others’ concerns.

  • A high-high use of the problem-solving strategy indicates attempts to increase the satisfaction of concerns of both parties by finding an acceptable solution for both.
  • A low-low use of this strategy indicates a reduction in the satisfaction of the concerns of both parties as a result of their failure to confront and solve their problems.
  • A positive score in the problem-solving scale indicates joint gains, but negative scores indicate losses for both parties.
  • A high-low use of the bargaining strategy indicates attempts to obtain a high satisfaction of concerns for oneself and providing low satisfaction of concerns to others.
  • A low-high use of this strategy indicates attempts to obtain the opposite.
  • A positive score in the bargaining scale indicates one’s gain, but loss to the other party.
  • A negative score indicates one’s loss, but gain for the other party.

The Intersection of Problem-Solving and Bargaining: Compromising

Compromising is the point of intersection of the two dimensions, that is, a middle-ground position where a party has an intermediate level of concern for their own and others’ interests.

Matching Conflict Management Style to a Situation

Research on conflict management styles has found that individuals tend to use one or two of the above five strategies more frequently than others.

Collaboration as a Primary Strategy in Conflict Resolution

For example, some people primarily employ collaboration in interpersonal conflict situations. In other words, although there are five different ways to handle conflicts, such a person is more inclined to collaborate than to force, accommodate, avoid, or compromise.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Collaborating in Conflict Resolution

There are several advantages to using a collaborating strategy to handle interpersonal conflict situations. Collaborating with the other party promotes creative problem solving and fosters mutual respect and rapport.

However, collaborating is time-consuming, and many conflict situations are either very urgent or too trivial to justify the time it takes to collaborate. In many cases, one of the other four conflict management strategies is more appropriate.

The Role of Skillful Conflict Managers

Skillful conflict managers can understand interpersonal conflict situations and use the appropriate conflict management style for each situation.

Important Variables in Conflict Management Situations

Several key variables define conflict management situations and determine which conflict management styles are likely to be effective. Time pressure is a critical variable.

Detailed Analysis of Important Variables

If there were never any time pressures, collaboration might always be the best approach. In addition to time pressures, some of the most important factors to consider are (i) issue importance, (ii) relationship importance, and (iii) relative power.

  1. Issue importance: The extent to which important priorities, principles, or values are involved in the conflict.
  2. Relationship importance: How important it is to maintain a close, mutually supportive relationship with the other party.
  3. Relative power: How much power you have compared to how much power the other party has.

Situational Approach to Conflict Resolution

When you find yourself in conflict over very important issues, you should typically try to collaborate with the other party.

However, if time is precious and you have enough power to impose your will, forcing may be more appropriate. Realize that you might need to repair the relationship after using a forcing strategy if the other party feels that you did not show adequate consideration for their concerns.

Appropriateness of Conflict Management Styles Based on Issue Importance

When dealing with moderately important issues, compromising can often lead to quick solutions. However, compromise does not completely satisfy either party, and it does not foster innovation the way that taking the time to collaborate can.

Using Accommodating and Avoiding Strategies in Conflict Resolution

When you find yourself in conflict over a fairly unimportant issue, using an accommodating strategy is a quick way to resolve the conflict without straining your relationship with the other party.

Avoiding should generally be reserved for situations where there is a clear advantage to waiting to resolve the conflict. Avoiding is appropriate if you are too busy with more important concerns and if your relationship with the other party is unimportant.

Familiarity with different styles and conflict situations are critical factors in effectively handling conflicts.

Research Findings on Conflict Management Styles

Most researchers acknowledge that the appropriateness of using a particular style depends on the conflict situation. They also mention that each individual has access to one or more styles to manage conflict as part of their personality (Mayer, 2004).

The following table shows different situations where different conflict management styles are appropriate and inappropriate:

Conflict Management StyleAppropriate SituationsInappropriate Situations
Integrating/Collaborating1. Issues are complex.
2. Synthesis of ideas is needed.
3. Commitment is needed from both parties for successful implementation.
4. Time is available for problem-solving.
5. One party alone cannot solve the problem.
6. Resources possessed by different parties are needed to solve their common problems.
1. Task or problem is simple.
2. Immediate decision is required.
3. Other parties are unconcerned about the outcome.
4. Other parties do not have problem-solving skills.
Obliging/Accommodating1. You believe that you may be wrong.
2. Other party is more important to you.
3. You are willing to give up something in exchange for something from the other party in the future.
4. You’re dealing from a position of weakness.
1. Issue is important to you.
2. You believe that you are right.
3. The other party is wrong or unethical.
Dominating/Forcing1. Issue is trivial.
2. Speedy decision is needed.
3. Unpopular decision is unavoidable.
4. Unfamiliar course of action is the most desirable choice.
5. Party may be costly to you to make substantial decisions.
1. Issue is complex.
2. Issue is not important to you.
3. Both parties are equally powerful.
4. Decision does not have to be made quickly.
5. Subordinates possess a high degree of competence.
Avoiding1. Issue is trivial.
2. Potential dysfunctional effect of confronting the other party outweighs benefits of resolution.
1. Issue is important to you.
2. It is your responsibility to make a decision.
3. Parties are willing to defer the issue but resolution is needed.
Compromising1. Goals of parties are mutually exclusive.
2. Parties are equally powerful.
3. Consensus cannot be reached.
4. Integrating or dominating style is not successful.
5. Temporary solution to a complex problem is needed.
1. One party is more powerful.
2. Problem is complex enough, needing a problem-solving approach.

Typical Conflict Management Styles

Typically, people deal with conflict in one of two modes:

  • Fight to win, which means there is always one or more losers.
  • Flee from the situation or deny the conflict exists.

Influencing Factors on Individual Conflict Management Styles

Furthermore, an individual’s conflict management style can be influenced by factors such as gender, self-concept or confidence, skills in dealing with conflicts, communication skills, and life experiences.

Situational Factors and Conflict Management Styles

In addition, people in conflict will choose styles to deal with the conflict that depend on situational factors, such as personal expectations and position or power.

Cultural Impact on Conflict Management Styles

Conflict management style is greatly influenced by the culture, both social and organizational, in which people operate.

Gender, Ethnicity, and Conflict Management Styles

Numerous studies have documented differences, in general, in how men and women, or minorities and non-minorities, handle conflicts.

Learned Behaviors and Conflict Management Styles

Learned behaviors in an organization or units within the organization influence the styles often chosen for managing conflicts. The key is to understand that these are learned behaviors and that they can be changed if desired.

Blake and Mouton’s Framework for Conflict Management Styles

Blake and Mouton created a framework that allows the viewing of different conflict management modes or styles. These modes are positioned on a grid that compares the response to conflict by noting the levels of cooperation and assertiveness.

Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Management Mode

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Management Mode is based upon the Blake and Mouton Grid. This is a self-report instrument that reflects the propensity of individuals to respond to conflict in one of five modes:

Determining Propensity for Conflict Management Styles

The instrument is meant to show which style(s) an individual has the greatest tendency to use in a conflict. However, different conflicts and their surrounding factors will warrant different styles.

Understanding and Choosing the Right Conflict Management Style

The more an individual understands about the different styles, the more they may be able to choose a style most conducive to dealing with, and hopefully managing, the conflict at hand.

Conflict Management in Practice

People will choose a style in a given conflict situation depending on personal and organizational norms, as well as on the current escalation level of the conflict.

Demonstrating Skill in Conflict Management

Skill in managing conflict is demonstrated by choosing a style that will lead to the de-escalation of a conflict and, ultimately, to a level of resolution that minimizes the resources and energy surrounding the issues in the conflict.

In all situations and with any style, some behaviors, as outlined below, are assured to aid in conflict resolution:

  • Describe the other person’s behavior objectively.
  • Use concrete terms.
  • Describe a specific time, place, and action of concern.
  • Describe the action, not the motive.
  • Acknowledge your feelings.
  • Express feelings as calmly as possible.
  • Use humor.
  • State feelings positively related to the goal.
  • Direct yourself to specific behavior.
  • Ask for a change in behavior.
  • Specify, if appropriate, what you are willing to change to reach an agreement.
  • Reaffirm the other person’s ability to make change.
  • End on a positive (not necessarily happy) note.

How To Choose Conflict Management Style?

There are times when we have a choice to engage in a conflict or avoid it. The following six variables should be considered when deciding if you will engage in a conflict or not:

How much interest do you have in the relationship?

The importance of the working/personal relationship often dictates whether you will engage in a conflict or not. If you value the person and/or the relationship, it is important to go through the process of conflict resolution.

How important is the issue to you?

Even if the relationship is not of great value to you, you must often engage in conflict if the issue is important to you.

For example, if the issue is a belief, value, or regulation that you believe in or are hired to enforce, then engaging in the conflict is necessary. If both the relationship and the issue are important to you, there is an even more compelling reason to engage in the conflict.

Do you have the energy for the conflict?

Many of us say, “There is not enough time to do all that I want to do in a day.”

We contend that more often than not, the issue is not how much time is available, but how much energy we have for what we need to do. Even in a track meet, runners are given recovery time before they have to run another race. It is the energy, not the time, being managed in these situations.

Are you aware of the potential consequences?

Prior to engaging in a conflict, it is wise to think about any anticipated consequences from engaging in the conflict.

For example, there may be a risk to your safety, a risk of job loss, or an opportunity for a better working relationship.

Many times people will engage in conflict and then be “shocked” by the outcome or consequence of engaging in the conflict. It is always useful to thoughtfully think through the consequences, whether positive or negative in nature.

Are you ready for the consequences?

After determining the potential consequences, you should determine if you are ready for the consequences of engaging in the conflict.

For example, one employee anticipated a job loss if she continued to engage in the conflict she was having with her boss over a particular issue.

After careful consideration, the employee thought and believed strongly enough about the issue that she did engage in the conflict with her boss.

Her annual contract was not renewed for the upcoming year.

Because this individual thought through the consequences of engaging in the conflict, she was prepared to be without a job for a duration of time and able to financially and emotionally plan for this outcome.

Most consequences of engaging in conflict are not this severe, but this example illustrates the value of thinking through consequences.

What are the consequences if you do not engage in the conflict?

Most people have values, ideas, beliefs, or morals that are a core part of their personhood. When a person is going to sacrifice one of his/her beliefs by not engaging in conflict, there is a concern of a personal loss of respect.

Therefore, even if a person is not excited about the consequences of engaging in a conflict, they must also consider the consequences of not engaging in the conflict. When the personal consequences of not engaging in the conflict outweigh all other factors, then a person usually must engage in the conflict situation.

At times, one must engage in conflict to not lose a sense of self.

Effect of Unresolved Conflict

It is clear that if we improve our abilities to resolve conflicts, we will save resources, and we can also expect to see:

  • Improved understanding, even when parties remain in disagreement.
  • Improved communication.
  • Improved productivity due to better utilization of resources and relationships.

It is clear that most conflicts that are ignored or mismanaged will escalate and become harder to de-escalate. It is valuable to address conflict at its point of origin for several reasons.

Benefits of Resolving Conflicts at the Origin

First, when a conflict is addressed between the initial disputants/parties, the maximum number of options for resolution exist. As a conflict is “passed up through the ranks,” the range of resolution options diminishes, and the options often become more punitive in nature.

Empowerment Through Self-Resolution

Second, it is empowering for the disputants to resolve their conflicts themselves rather than having a hierarchical third party mandate the resolution. Through this empowerment, employees are more likely to follow through on their agreed-upon resolution.

Cost-Effectiveness of Point-of-Origin Conflict Resolution

Third, it is cost-effective for conflicts to be resolved at their points of origin. As more parties become involved in resolving or managing conflict, each of these employees must spend more time away from their work responsibilities.

High Percentage of Management Time Devoted to Conflict Resolution

Putnam reports that many people in management positions spend as much as 40% of their time managing and resolving conflicts.

Advocating for Conflict Management Skills Training

Therefore, we advocate the value of teaching all employees conflict management skills. Most people do not resolve conflicts because they either have a faulty skill set and/or because they do not know the organization’s policy on conflict management.

Understanding the Components of Conflict Management

It is valuable for all employees to know their conflict styles, conflict intervention methods, strategies for conflict management, the organization’s support, and the system for conflict management.

Conclusion: Interpreting Your Thomas Killman Conflict Mode Inventory Scores

Usually, after getting the results of any test or assessment, the first question people ask is: “What are the right answers?” In the case of conflict-handling behavior, there are no universal right answers. All five modes are useful in some situations: each represents a set of useful social skills.

Our conventional wisdom recognizes, for example, that often “two heads are better than one” (Collaborating). But it also says, “”Kill your enemies with kindness” (Accommodating), “Split the difference” (Compromising), “Leave well enough alone” (Avoiding), and “Might makes right” (Competing).

The effectiveness of a given conflict-handling mode depends upon the requirements of the specific conflict situation and the skill with which the mode is used.

Each of us is capable of using all five conflict-handling modes: none of us can be characterized as having a single, rigid style of dealing with conflict.

However, any given individual uses some modes better than others and therefore, tends to rely upon those modes more heavily than others, whether because of temperament or practice.

The conflict behaviors which individuals use are therefore the result of both their personal predispositions and the requirements of the situations in which they find themselves. The Thomas-Killman Conflict Mode Instrument is designed to assess this mix of conflict-handling modes.

To help you judge how appropriate your utilization of the five modes is, we have listed a number of uses for each mode based on lists generated by company presidents.

Your score, high or low, indicates how often you tend to utilize each mode in the appropriate situation. There is a possibility that your social skills lead you to rely upon some conflict behaviors more or less than necessary.

To help you determine if this is a problem for you we have also listed some diagnostic questions to serve as warning signals for the under or overuse of each mode.