When you hear the word “conflict,” do you view this as “trouble” or do you think in terms that it could be a simple disagreement or difference of opinion? Do you ever find it to be motivational?
Consider a brain-storming session where everyone is heard and ideas freely bounce around and get further defined. This is a great example of how differences can be inspirational and lend themselves to creativity and growth.
For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.
–Margaret Heffernan (author, entrepreneur, CEO)
Having said this, conflict must still be appropriately managed, otherwise problems arise, ill feelings surface, morale diminishes, and productivity suffers.
The 5 Modes of Conflict
Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilman identified 5 modes of conflict. Some styles sound like they may be “better” than others, but in reality there is no right or wrong style; all five modes are useful when used in the appropriate situation.
The 5 styles, and their best usage are:
- Competing is most effective when quick, decisive action is required and for important issues that may be unpopular or are vital to the organization. Examples include discipline, cost cutting, legal requirements, and enforcing company rules and policies.
- Accommodating mode is useful when preserving harmony is essential, for allowing others to learn from their mistakes (where the risk is minimal), when you realize you can learn from others and that their position is likely a better solution, or that the issue is much more important to the other person than it is to you.
- Avoiding is useful when there are more pressing issues, when others are addressing the situation and don’t require your intervention, when gathering more information is more important than having an immediate response, when you have no chance of satisfying your own concerns, and to let people cool down and reduce tension, and then readdress the concern at a later time.
- Collaborating is useful when there are important issues on both sides which can not be compromised, must be integrated into a solution, and when there is a need to work through hard feelings that are impacting interpersonal relationships.
- Compromising is useful when there are time constraints and solutions must be obtained quickly, when your issue is moderately important, when two opponents of equal power are strongly committed to differing goals but must reach a solution (ex. labor contracts), and as a back-up when collaboration or competition fails.
Effective leaders understand the value of all conflict styles. They readily adapt to the style most appropriate for the situation, and they intervene only when necessary.
Remember, without conflict there is no leadership!
How well do you manage conflict? Do you have a tendency to use one style more than others? Could the use of another style provide better results?
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