When you work with creative minds, interpersonal conflict is natural and inevitable. As a leader, managing that struggle is imperative in order to ensure your workplace remains a place that encourages open communication and idea sharing, overall productivity isn’t affected, and business goals are kept as priority. Here is a go-to guide to help you understand methods for handling disagreements, and in what context they are most applicable.
A popular model used to resolve workplace difficulties has been developed by researchers Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann, called the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI). This self-scoring assessment teaches you about each problem-solving style and when to use them. Opposition in the office can be dealt with in the following five ways:
1. Competing: This power-oriented method is used when an employee’s concerns are pursued at another’s expense and as a result, has one party defending his or her position in any way possible – including debating and pulling rank if needed. This insistent response is best leveraged when a fast decision is required.
2. Accommodating: This appeasing approach is used when one staffer’s interests are pushed aside to satisfy the other individual. This self-sacrificing attitude can come off as selfless and generous, but ultimately, one party opts to fall in line with the other person’s viewpoints even though he or she would rather not. Use this method when the issue at hand is more important than the alternative stance.
3. Avoiding: This technique is neither assertive nor agreeable. By not dealing with the argument at hand, one party ignores his or her own point of view as well as those of the other person’s. Avoidance includes sidestepping, postponing conversations until a later time, or simply withdrawing altogether. Uphold this stance when the benefit of hashing it out doesn’t outweigh the cost of doing so.
4. Collaborating: This cooperative manner involves working together to find a solution that fully satisfies everyone’s opinions. Further investigation into the matter is usually needed to completely understand the underlying needs of each staff member’s point of view in order to determine the creative fix. Be willing to harmonize when the suggestions of both parties are important and a resolution is needed so it doesn’t affect the organization as a whole.
5. Compromising: This attitude quickly maps out a mutually acceptable solution. It might mean splitting the difference between the two positions and seeking a timely middle-ground answer, but the result is an answer where both sides agree. Compromise when a temporary decision is needed and the opposing outlooks are of equal importance.
You may find that you use one conflict-handling style better than others, but effective leaders make use of all five problem-solving techniques when a decision needs to be made. Every situation is different, so make sure you take the time to listen to all sides and treat each with respect and patience. Understanding these different responses to managing workplace friction helps develop your emotional intelligence and is key to becoming a successful leader.