Your cooperative skills mean a lot when it comes to productivity and well-being but so does your style of conflict.
To support at constructive – and productive – teamwork it can be helpful to agree on what to do when disagreements and conflicts arise.
In these situations it may be good to know what strategies each person will automatically use, what that will result in, and how to utilize the strengths of the different styles of conflicts in the group.
There is not a right way to handle conflict. This depends on the situation and the need.
5 different styles and how each style is recognized
The Thomas-Kilmann model of conflict describes 5 styles of conflict. Each profile has strengths and challenges depending on the situation and the amount in which they are expressed.
Competing – “I’m in charge”
- This style is good if there is a need to fight for something or someone, set a clear limit or in any way challenge the norms.
- There is a large commitment to the case and a low commitment in the relation to others. It is about winning the war not regarding relational loses.
- This style is controlling, competing and impatient when it comes to conversation and data gathering.
Collaboration – “Let’s fix this together”
- This style is good at uncovering all aspects and possibilities and choosing a mutual solution based on sober information. It will take longer to produce results, but it is typically worth-while.
- There is a big commitment to the case AND the relation.
- This profile gathers information, engage in dialogue, look for alternatives and have an interest in every point of view, all values and all needs.
Compromising – “I’ll budge if you do too.”
- This style might be appropriate if not much is at stake. Used in the right way it might make time and room for bigger issues to have attention.
- Commitment is intermediate to both case and relation. Neither big or small.
- This profile tries to decrease the expectations of the others, negotiates, gives and takes, and is careful.
Avoiding – “Conflict – what conflict?”
- This style is good if a lot of tension is present. It might be useful, then, to defuse and not (unnecessarily) fuel the fire. It might also be a useful strategy to protect oneself.
- This avoiding style shows low commitment to the case and to the relation with others.
- The profile will step back or avoid getting involved.
Accommodating – “You decide”
- This style is good to let everyone feel seen and heard and to calm troubled waters. It might be necessary to make room for problem solving.
- The commitment to the interpersonal relationships is great but small to the case. The most important thing is to feel good.
- This profile moderating and soothing and is typically very interested in the views and accept of others.
How do you extend your personal conflict style
Few of us have only one style. We have several assets. Still, there is reason to develop and to gain understanding of others.
The more you develop yourself, the better you know your personal style of conflict and can manage it constructively. It also means that your understanding and accept of other styles are larger and you will find it easier to adapt your response to what is needed in that specific situation.
If you find it easy to fight you might fight in a more constructive way if you practice stepping back and listen or seek information. If you find it easy to step back, you might contribute more if you practice speaking up.
If you always consider all options, you might practice prioritizing in what situation a quick solution is needed.
If you are the person who always tries to make people get along then put on the clothe of a problem-solver and try looking for a third – common – solution. And if you are always busy making sure everybody is okay both the fellowship and the bottom line might benefit from hearing your ideas. You might have thought of something that the others have not, which might loosen the conflict.
When you are aware of your different style of conflict (or styles) in the team you will not have fewer disagreements. But you might be able to exploit differences and disagreements more constructively.