How to Reduce Instances of Conflict in the Workplace
Conflict is common in the workplace. By definition, it involves at least two parties, each with a different conflict style, and occurs when people with contrasting goals come in contact with one another. At the end of the conflict encounter, the goals of each party are either met or not met. The key is using the right strategy to maneuver the encounter so both parties are satisfied and a resolution is reached.
The Conflict Encounter and Five Conflict Strategies
Where there is a “conflict encounter,” there are two actual stages. Stage one is the conflict and stage two is the outcome. There are five conflict strategies that can used in terms of these two stages. They are Integrating, Compromising, Competing, Smoothing, and Avoiding. Whichever strategy one person chooses, the other person may or may not use the same strategy, which could be an issue. Knowing which strategy, or conflict style, to implement is crucial. Below are the ways that each work:
- Integrating: Integrating is different than the self-centered orientation of the other four strategies. The goal of the Integrating strategy is to manage conflict through collaboration. It’s solution-oriented and based on open communication.
- Compromising: Compromising consists of giving in on one need in order to get another satisfied. A compromise is achieved when the parties reach a solution that involves the least amount of individual loss. There is give-and-take has occurred and the parties arrive at a mutual “middle ground,” a solution is reached.
- Competing: The competing strategy creates a win-lose situation. It’s a forceful way of ensuring the achievement of one party’s goals only. This strategy disregards the needs of the other person and moves toward the satisfaction of one’s personal goal. Competing could be effective when there is a less significant situation that requires fast action, but this strategy generally yields short-term gains at the expense of long-term sacrifice.
- Smoothing: The smoothing strategy involves giving in to the other party so they can achieve their goals instead of focusing on your own needs. By giving in to the other party, the “smoother” gives up one thing in the hope of getting something else. When someone chooses to be the smoother they risk people considering them a pushover, and it is harder for them to reach their own goals.
- Avoiding: The avoiding strategy is often referred to an act of withdrawing. It is used to steer clear of an approaching conflict or to remove oneself from an existing conflict situation. The avoider ignores the entire conflict situation, as well as their own needs and the needs of others. It’s very ineffective and is often part of ineffective leadership.
The Most Effective Strategy
The most effective strategy overall is the integrating strategy. It’s the most ideal strategy for successfully managing conflict on a consistent basis. When using this strategy, the solution for the conflict is mutually beneficial to the parties involved, is oriented toward the goals of the organization, and contains a long-term focus. Both parties solve the conflict and leave with positive feelings about the way their needs and goals were treated. The integrating strategy is extremely useful in complex situations. It’s very effective when parties involved in the conflict must work together in the future, which is quite common in the workplace.
Improving Conflict Strategies
HRDQ’s “Conflict Strategies” Inventory will help learners addresses the problem of conflict management. It will demonstrate the conflict strategies and how to use them effectively. It’s based on more than 30 years of research and combines the works of respected researchers in the field of conflict management. The tool guides people through a learning process, first revealing strengths and weaknesses and then providing the knowledge and skills to handle conflict more successfully.
This product is available as a handy online assessment, which is easy and quick to use to figure out your conflict style. It has been extensively updated and enhanced, and the new online assessment options can be used for virtual administration or self-study, allowing the ease of learning. It’s packed with extensive interpretive information, hands-on activities, skill development, and action planning, and is the best way to equip individuals with knowledge and insight as they navigate conflict situations.
To learn more about the Conflict Strategies Inventory, download the info kit for free here!