5 Styles of Resolving Conflicts While Building a Team

5 Styles of Resolving Conflicts While Building a Team

There are five widely accepted styles of resolving conflicts which you can use while building your team. These were originally developed by Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann in the 1970’s. Understanding all five styles and knowing when to use them is an important part of successful conflict resolution in your team.

Collaborating

With the collaborating approach, the members of the team involved in the conflict,  work together to develop a win-win solution. This approach promotes assertiveness (rather than aggressiveness or passiveness).

This style is appropriate when:

  • The situation is not urgent
  • An important decision needs to be made
  • The conflict involves a large number of people, or people across different teams
  • Previous conflict resolution attempts have failed

This style is not appropriate when:

  • A decision needs to be made urgently
  • The matter is trivial to all involved

Related: Cooperation Outcome Based Team Building Activity

Competing

With a competitive approach, the team member in conflict takes a firm stand. They compete with the other team member for power, and they typically win (unless they’re up against someone else who is competing!) This style is often seen as aggressive, and can often be the cause of other team members in the conflict feeling injured or stepped on.

This style is appropriate when:

  • A decision needs to be made quickly (i.e., emergencies)
  • An unpopular decision needs to be made
  • Someone is trying to take advantage of a situation

This style is not appropriate when:

  • Team members are feeling sensitive about the conflict
  • The situation is not urgent

Compromising

With the compromising approach, each team member in the conflict gives up something that contributes towards the conflict resolution.

This style is appropriate when:

  • A decision needs to be made sooner rather than later (meaning the situation is important but not urgent)
  • Resolving the conflict is more important than having each individual “win”
  • Power among team members in the conflict is equal

This style is not appropriate when:

  • A wide variety of important needs must be met
  • The situation is extremely urgent
  • One person holds more power than another

Related: Getting to the Root Cause of Team Conflict

Accommodating

The accommodating style is one of the most passive conflict resolution styles. With this style, one of the team members in conflict gives up what they want so that the other team member can have what they want. In general, this style is not very effective, but it is appropriate in certain scenarios.

This style is appropriate when:

  • Maintaining the relationship is more important than winning
  • The issue at hand is very important to the other team member, but is not important to you

This style is not appropriate when:

Avoiding

The last approach is to avoid the conflict entirely. People who use this style tend to accept decisions without question, avoid confrontation, and delegate difficult decisions and tasks. Avoiding is another passive approach that is typically not effective, but it does have its uses.

This style is appropriate when:

  • The issue is trivial
  • The conflict will resolve itself on its own soon

This style is not appropriate when:

  • The issue is important to you or those close to you (such as your team)
  • The conflict will continue or get worse without attention

Conclusion

In any team, conflict is inevitable, and knowing which style of conflict resolution to use or allow will help you build a successful team. Team building activities offer team leaders a safe environment to monitor how team members resolve conflict and what style of conflict resolution they use.

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