Five Ways to Manage Conflict Conflict is a part of business life. In any given day, you may be involved in conflict as either a participant or an overseer. In each case you’re expected to play a role in the management of the conflict, hopefully in its constructive resolution. Chances are you have a certain style for managing conflict. If you don’t think you do, your subordinates undoubtedly would attribute one to you. Perhaps you’re recognized as a skillful negotiator, a compromiser, or a dictator whose tolerance for conflict is minimal. To help clarify the alternatives available to you, here are five styles of conflict management, followed by a brief quiz to see whether you know the situations where each would be most effective. Forcing All or nothing. Only one party can win – by force, if necessary. Avoiding Stay out of it. Yielding Withdraw and let the other party win. Compromising Employ give-and-take so that the resulting agreement partially satisfies each of the conflicting parties. Problem solving A collaboration which brings out and satisfies the fundamental concerns of each of the parties, perhaps after many time-consuming and soul-searching discussions. Each conflict management style above is most appropriate to two of the situations listed below. See if you can determine the best style to each of the following: Situations Wage negotiations with a union. As a user of financial reports, you have become involved in a conflict between the controllers office and top management. This afternoon’s management meeting has been called to determine space requirements in a new office building. Arguments have been heated. Recommendations must be submitted by the end of the day. 50% of a product run has been rejected by quality control. Changes must be made immediately and your subordinates disagree on what should be done. You’re having a running argument with marketing, which is committed to a huge advertising campaign for product features that you feel are impractical. An ongoing personality conflict has been hampering productivity among your subordinates. Two top managers are having a fight. You have a third option, but you know neither of them will like it. You know your people will react negatively to a new company policy, but you also know it’s in the company’s best interest. You are involved in a conflict with another department head, but you’ll need her support next month for a proposal of your own. You need agreement on the application of new office procedures. Your people have conflicting opinions. Resolutions Forcing is best used when quick, decisive action is vital, such as in #4. It’s also necessary in situations where unpopular, but necessary policies or practices must be implemented (#8). If a situation is not critical, a forcing position can make lasting enemies. Avoiding conflict is a good posture in situations where you are an outsider (#2) or where you are relatively powerless (#7). It’s also appropriate when people (or you) are too emotional and need to cool down. In the long run, however, consistently avoiding conflict is a negative, branding you as someone with few options and little to contribute. Yielding can be very effective when you recognize that the issue is much more important to the other party then to you (#5) or where you want to gain allies (#9). If you’re going to yield, it’s important to do so on the right issues and before you become too committed to your own approach. Compromising is often the most appropriate mode when both parties have equal power, such as in union negotiations (#1). It also may be necessary when under time constraints (#3). Remember, however, that compromising always leaves each party somewhat disappointed, with unresolved issues that are sure to arise again. Problem-solving is the best mode for long-term results, but it doesn’t work in all circumstances. It works well when resolving personality conflicts (#6) and when cooperation and commitment are needed (#10). The easiest conflict trap is to feel constrained to one method, because, perhaps, it’s the one that comes naturally to you. An understanding of alternatives, coupled with reflection prior to a confrontation, can result in choosing the most effective posture. Some conflict styles back up others. Thus, if problem-solving doesn’t work, compromise, forcing, or yielding can be used. The final word: Conflict resolution is not always possible. Remember, the objective is to manage conflict instead of letting conflict manage you. **** About the Author: John A. Page, LFHIMSS John is an accomplished executive with impressive senior-level strategic management experience and success recognized industry-wide for contributions to healthcare information technology and management systems. Nationally respected on topics of social media, technology and strategic business alignment, he serves as a Vistage Chair and Host of CEOIntroNet TV Chicagoland as well as an advisor to Boards and business leaders. January 30, 2013 by John A. Page, LFHIMSS 0 comments 1125 viewson Communication Share this post Facebook Twitter Google plus Linkedin Mail this article Print this article Next: Are Your HR Practices Helping or Hurting Your Workers Compensation Premiums? Previous: Innovation: A Word You Love or a Way of Life?