What are the conflict handling styles?

Conflict in any organization is inevitable. Whenever you put people together and arrange them into some type of structure (formal or informal) there is a good probability that some individuals will perceive that others have negatively affected or are about to negatively affect something that they care about. How then do we deal with the conflict?

In those conflict laden situations one must first determine the intention of the other party. That is one has to speculate about the other person’s purpose for causing the conflict in order to respond tot hat behavior. Thomas concluded that one’s response will depend on his or her cooperativeness or assertiveness. Cooperativeness is the degree to which an individual attempts to rectify the conflict by satisfying the other person’s concerns.

Assertiveness is the degree to which an individual will attempt to rectify the conflict to satisfy his or her own concerns. Using these two dimensions Thomas was able to identify four distinct conflict handling techniques plus one middle of the road combination: competing (assertive but uncooperative), collaborating (assertive and cooperative) avoiding (unassertive and uncooperative), accommodating (unassertive but cooperative), and comprising (midrange on both assertiveness and cooperativeness). Managers essentially can draw on any of these five conflict resolution options to reduce excessive conflict. Each has particular strengths and weakness and no one option is ideal for every situation. Exhibit describes when each is best used. You should consider each of tool in your conflict management tool chest. You might be better at using some tools tan others but the skilled manager knows what each tool can do and when each is likely to be most effective.



Avoidance: Conflict is trivial, when emotions are running high and time is needed to cool them down, or when the potential disruption from an assertive action outweighs the benefits of resolution.

Accommodation: The issue under dispute isn’t that important to you or when you want to build ups credits for later issues.

Forcing: You need a quick resolution on important issues that require unpopular actions to be taken and when commitment by others to your solution is not critical.

Compromise: Conflicting parties are about equal in power, when it is desirable to achieve a temporary solution to a complex issue, or when time pressures demand expedient solutions

Collaboration: Time pressures are minimal, when all parties seriously want a win-win solution, and when the issue is too important to be comprised.

Thomas recognized that one conflict resolution method is not appropriate in all situations. Rather, the situation itself must dictate the technique. For instance forcing is, most appropriate when a quick decisive action is vital or against people who take advantage of noncompetitive behaviors. Collaboration is appropriate when one is attempting to merge insights from different people, and avoidance works well when the potential for disruption outweighs the benefits of resolving the conflict. Accommodation can assist that are more important to others than to you or when harmony and stability are important to you. Finally, compromise works well in achieving temporary settlements to complex issues or reaching a solution when time constraints dictate and parties are about equal in power.

Which conflicts do you handle?

Not every conflict justifies your attention. Some might not be worth the effort; others might be unmanageable. Not every conflict is worth your time and effort to resolve. Avoidance might appear to be a copout, but in can sometimes be the most appropriate response. You can improve your overall management effectiveness and your conflict management skills, in particular by avoiding trivial conflicts. Choose your battles judiciously saving your efforts for the ones that count.

Regardless of our desires, reality tells us that some conflicts are unmanageable. When antagonisms are deeply rooted, when one or both parties wish to prolong a conflict, or when emotions run so high that constructive interaction is impossible, your efforts to mange the conflict are unlikely to meet with much success. Don’t be lured into the naïve belief that a good manager can resolve every conflict effectively. Some aren’t worth the effort; some are outside your realm of influence. Still others may be functional and as such are best left alone.

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