Although research has shown that 18-26% of managers’ time is spent on dealing with conflict, there is more than just time that can be gained from effective handling and conflict management.  Whenever there are disagreements between colleagues (be that regarding tasks, projects, handling specific situations) where different perspectives, information and expertise are brought to the table, it is easy to see why misunderstanding and miscommunication can be commonplace.

If not handled effectively, this has the potential to cause deadlock and inaction, with key input suppressed or ignored.  However, understanding the positive intentions and contributions of those involved can reduce any resentment over the differences and makes it easier for the team members to listen to and learn from one another’s insights.  Diverse inputs get the chance to be considered, benefiting the organisation in terms of innovation, creativity and even speed to market for those new products or services.   So, if we can’t ignore conflict, let’s look at some ways managers handle it.

There are some recognised approaches to handling conflict, and ensuring that you have developed your self-awareness regarding your leadership skills and leadership style will help equip you with a better understanding of how you handle conflict management within your team.  One way of helping with this is through management tools such as the Thomas-Killman Conflict Mode Instrument™ (TKI™), which helps to identify your preferred style, and adapting to the situations where each is most effective.

When in conflict, behaviour can be described in terms of where it lies along two dimensions – assertiveness (degree to which you try to satisfy your own concerns) and cooperativeness (satisfying other’s concerns).  These TKI modes are:

  • Competing – is assertive and uncooperative, satisfying your own concerns at the other’s expense
  • Accommodating –  is unassertive and cooperative, sacrificing your own concerns for the other person’s
  • Compromising –  is partially assertive and partially cooperative, looking for an acceptable settlement that partially satisifies both parties concerns
  • Avoiding – is unassertive and uncooperative, sidestepping or postponing the conflict
  • Collaborating –  is assertive and cooperative, problem-solving to find a solutions that completely satisfies both parties

Everyone uses all five conflict modes from time to time, and all can be very effective when used in the right circumstances.  Within leadership, we tend to use one or two styles more often, but being able to adapt your effective communication skills to be able to use any of them, and to know when to use them, will positively affect the outcome of conflict, both in terms of relationships and results.

Which style do you think describes your preferred method of handling conflict?  Have you experienced workplace situations where your preferred style or the others may have been more appropriate?

In all conflict situations, we want to avoid personalising it, i.e. focusing on each other rather than the situation, becoming irritated or behaving negatively towards each other or expressing blame.  Forward thinking leaders also understand each conflict mode and appreciate the benefits of the diversity of approach from others in any given situation.  By keeping discussions focussed on the issue, remaining respectful of others opinions and adapting your style, a lot can be gained from the perspectives, insight, expertise and knowledge of others.

For more information on self-awareness including TKI click HERE.


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  1. Pingback: What Causes Conflict in the Workplace? | Assiem

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