Managing Workplace Conflict by Identifying Your Resolution Style

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An employee shows up to work on Casual Friday wearing a t-shirt supporting a Republican candidate. The moment he walks into the office, you already see the Liberals raise their eyebrows. They nod at each other as if to signal that it's time to confront the colleague for being so bold in expressing his political views.

Do you fight, flee, or freeze in the face of conflict? Conflict isn’t pretty, and no one enjoys being caught in its crossfire. However, it’s a part of the job that’s unavoidable. A simple first step is to develop self awareness about how you respond when someone says or does something that makes you want to yell.

According to the Myer’s-Briggs Company CPP, conflict costs companies in the U.S. over $1B annually as employees admit to spending 2.1 hours per week involved with conflict. Almost all organizations encounter budget restraints, differences of opinions, misunderstandings, discrimination, and clashing personalities. And all these result in people butting heads in the least productive way.

Let’s examine a few key elements of conflict resolution so you can start becoming more productive when someone at work touches a nerve.

Identify Your Conflict Resolution Style

Different personalities mean different leadership styles. And your unique type of leadership means you probably approach conflict a certain way. By identifying which conflict management method best defines you, you can either refine it or decide to transition to one that is more effective.

Are you ready to compete?

If you’re the highly assertive type, you probably approach conflict as you would a competition – one person must win, one must lose. This conflict management strategy may seem aggressive; however, in times of emergencies or hard decisions such as layoffs, someone with an assertive ability to decide in the face of conflict is exactly what is needed.

Do you prefer to compromise?

Is it possible for conflict to end with neither party winning or losing? Absolutely. In disagreements or negotiations, it’s not always possible to please everyone. However, what you can reach is mutual satisfaction where everyone involved comes to an agreement because they’ve both gained something to some degree.

Do you want to work together to find a solution?

In times when there is no compromise, it’s time to break open the situation to dissect its parts so that everyone involved can work together to find a solution. Fostering collaboration during conflict can make the clashing parties set aside what they were fighting about to reach a resolution they can agree on.

Do you give in?

Do you believe that the sooner you give up control, the sooner the problem will go away? There are times when the conflict can seem so trivial that it hardly seems worth the effort and you accommodate the demands of the opposing side. However, what you don’t get worked up about today can build up. And the last thing you want is to regret it later when your team’s behavior starts to escalate because they think they can get away with it.

Do you walk away?

Do you avoid conflict, hoping that the problem will go away and fix itself? Believe it or not, while this may seem like the conflict resolution method of an unskilled leader, there are ulterior motives behind why some managers choose to be so passive. Ignore an underperforming employee long enough, and they’ll have the numbers they need to justify the worker’s termination.

They say practice makes perfect. Instead of hoping that conflict will arise so that you can sharpen your conflict management skills, create a culture that minimizes it. This is a better test of true leadership. However, when the time comes, and your leadership is called upon, be prepared by knowing what type of leader you are and which conflict resolution approach the situation calls for.