5 Conflict Management Styles Every Manager Should Know [Guide] (2023)

An absolutely essential aspect of being a good leader is understanding how to handle conflict.

Without an understanding of the five conflict management styles and the proper way to implement them in different situations, the manager is left without guidance on how to handle conflict.

When it comes to finding quick solutions to problems, problems are often not properly resolved and reappear in the future.


  • What is conflict management?
  • The 5 conflict management styles
    1. Useful
    2. avoid
    3. compromise
    4. in a competition
    5. Cooperation
  • Conflict Management Assessments
  • Questionnaire on conflict management styles
  • How to deal with conflicts

What is conflict management?

management conflictIt is the process by which disputes are resolved, minimizing negative outcomes and prioritizing positive outcomes.

This important managerial skill involves using different tactics depending on the situation, negotiation and creative thinking. With conflicts properly managed, a company can minimize interpersonal issues, improve customer satisfaction, and achieve better business results.

Workplace conflicts do not automatically mean that specific employees are at fault, although in some cases this is the problem. If you have employees who are challenging the status quo and pushing for changes that they believe would be positive for the company, it could indicate that your company is at a high level.employee engagement.

Conflicts can also mean that employees feel comfortable challenging each other and that the organization resolves their conflicts fairly.

Conflict management, if done correctly, can even do just that.organized learningof an organization through the questions asked during the process.

The 5 conflict management styles

When it comes to conflict, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every situation will be different, from the source of the conflict to the parties involved.

An experienced conflict resolution manager must be able to take a bird's-eye view of the conflict and apply the conflict management style needed in that specific situation.

1. Accommodation

This style is simply putting other parties' needs before your own. You allow them to "win" and get away with it.

Adaptation is for situations where you don't care about the issue as much as the other person does, when the conflict isn't worth prolonging, or when you think you might be wrong. This option is all about keeping the peace, not trying more than it's worth, and knowing when to start the fights.

Although it may seem weak, confinement can be the best option to resolve a small conflict and move on to bigger problems. This style is very cooperative on the part of the solver, but it can breed resentment.

Benefits: Minor disagreements can be resolved quickly and easily with minimal effort. Managers can build a reputation for being easygoing, and employees will know they can voice their opinions on issues without retaliation.

In contrast: Managers can be seen as weak if they adapt too often. Applying this technique to larger or more important problems does not solve problems in any meaningful way and should be avoided at all costs.

Colors for the new spring campaign are discussed at a marketing meeting. Raymond insists that option A is the best option. Gina thinks option B is slightly better, but decides to let Raymond pick the colors to avoid arguing over two options she feels are suitable.

2. Avoid

This style aims to reduce conflict by ignoring, eliminating, or otherwise avoiding conflicting parties. Conflicting team members may be removed from the project they are fighting over, deadlines may be pushed back, or people may even be reassigned to other departments.

This can be an effective style of conflict resolution when a cooling-off period can be helpful or when you need more time to consider your position on the conflict.

However, avoidance should not replace proper resolution; Reversing the conflict indefinitely can and will lead to more (and bigger) conflicts in the future.

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Benefits: Giving people time to cool off can solve a surprising number of problems. Time and space can provide conflicting parties with much-needed perspective, and some issues will resolve themselves. Managers show that they trust employees to behave like adults and solve problems.

In contrast: Used in the wrong situations, this technique exacerbates conflicts. Managers can appear incompetent when they abuse avoidance because employees think they are incapable of handling disagreements.


Jake and Amy have been working on the new UX design for weeks now. The deadline is approaching and they cannot agree on the changes.

The deadline is pushed back and both have the day to work on other projects. The space to take a break from each other, plus the extra time to complete the project, allows them to settle down and move forward with a more collaborative mindset.

3. Commit

This style tries to find a middle ground, asking both parties to accept some aspects of their wishes so that a solution can be agreed upon.

This style is sometimes called lose-lose, in the sense that both parties have to give up some things to resolve the larger issue. This is used when time is short or when a solution simply needs to happen rather than being perfect.

Compromise can breed resentment, especially when overused as a conflict resolution tactic, so use it sparingly.

Benefits: Problems can be resolved quickly and conflicting parties understand each other better from the other's perspective. Engagement can set the stage for future collaboration and make both parties feel heard. Managers who use this tactic are seen as club promoters who are practical and solution-oriented.

In contrast: Nobody leaves very happy. In some cases, one side may feel that it has sacrificed too much and is unwilling to commit again in the future. Managers who rely on this technique drain their employees' goodwill and are seen as incapable of working together.


Rosa and Charles are responsible for the next quarter's advertising budget. Rosa wants to hire a full-time social media associate, while Charles wants to increase targeted digital ads.

A deal is reached with hiring a part-time social media worker, with the rest of the budget being spent on digital advertising.

4. Compete

This style rejects compromise and involves not giving in to the opinions or desires of others.

One part sticks to what it believes is the right way to handle a situation and doesn't back down until it gets what it wants.

This may be the case in situations where morals dictate a certain course of action, when there is no time to try to find another solution, or when an unpopular decision needs to be made. You can resolve disputes quickly, but there is a high chance of a drop in morale and productivity.

Note: This is not a reliable style.

Benefits: Managers who use this style show that they are strong and will not deviate from their principles. Disputes are resolved quickly as there is no room for disagreement or argument.

In contrast: Managers who use this style are seen as irrational and authoritarian. Resolving conflicts by suppressing disagreements does not lead to happy and productive employees, nor does it lead to finding the best solutions in most cases.


Sophia is the head of her department. She dealt with several conflicts within her employees. At first, Paul and Kevin couldn't agree on where to hold their annual team-building activity, so she stepped in and decided that the department would create an escape room.

Second, Cecile and Eduardo have been arguing over which one of them will handle a particularly difficult client. Neither one wants to put in the time and effort, arguing that it's the other's job to take care of it. Sophia decides that it is Cecile's job to take care of the client, although it could be anyone's job.

(Video) Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument

Third, Alex has repeatedly asked Sophia for permission to change management of a project he is leading. He believes that the changes he proposes will make the project much more successful. Sophia doesn't give in to the way the project is being run and insists that he do the job the way she tells him to.

As you can see, in the first example, Sophia made a quick decision to prevent a small conflict from escalating or wasting more time. This is an appropriate use of this style.
In the second decision, solving one problem and creating another: Cecile is now upset. Especially in cases where a boss prefers an employee, this kind of unilateral decision-making leads to angry employees.
In the third situation, Sophia should not have used the competitive style. Not only is Alex upset that no one listens to him, but Sophia also misses out on an opportunity to improve the project.

5. Cooperation

This style offers the best long-term results, although it is the most difficult and time-consuming.

The needs and desires of each party are taken into account and a win-win solution is found so that everyone goes home happy. Often all parties come together, discuss the conflict and negotiate a solution together.

This is used when it is important to maintain the relationship between all parties or when the solution itself will have a significant impact.

Benefits: All go happy. A solution is found that actually solves the problems of the conflict, and the manager who implements this tactic is considered wise.

In contrast: This type of conflict management takes a lot of time. In the search for a solution, deadlines or production may have to be postponed, which, depending on the parties involved, can be time consuming and generate losses.


Terry and Janet lead the design of a new prototype. They are struggling because Terry wants to integrate certain features. Janet wants to integrate a different set of roles.

To find a solution, they sit down together, talk about each feature, why it is important (or not), and finally come up with a solution that includes a combination of their features and some new ones they noticed during the negotiation, which are important.

In each of the conflict management examples above, a solution will be found, but depending on how that solution is found, there will be a lasting impact on employee morale, productivity and overall happiness. Skilled conflict management is all about minimizing the lasting effects of conflict by using the right tactics at the right time.

Conflict Management Assessments

It can be helpful to understand a manager's conflict management style.

During the interview, a conflict management questionnaire can highlight which potential employees are effective in their conflict management and resolution and which still need some work.

Generally, in a conflict management assessment, managers are asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 5 how often they would take a certain action.

With this information, an organization can decide whether conflict management training is required. This type of questionnaire should contain between 15 and 30 questions to provide a holistic view of the person's conflict management skills.

Questionnaire on conflict management styles

Please rate how often you use the following types of actions on a scale of 1 to 5:

  1. If there is a dispute, I will leave the situation as soon as possible.
  2. In case of conflict, I discuss the situation with all parties to find the best solution.
  3. I often use negotiation to try to find a compromise between conflicting parties.
  4. I know the best way and I will argue until others see that I am right.
  5. I'd rather keep the peace than fight to get what I want
  6. I keep disagreements to myself instead of mentioning them.
  7. I find it best to keep communication active when there are disagreements so I can find a solution that works for everyone.
  8. I like disagreements and I find satisfaction in winning them.
  9. Differences scare me and I will work to minimize them.
  10. I'm happy to meet people along the way.
  11. It is important for me to recognize and live up to the expectations of others.
  12. I take pride in seeing all sides of a conflict and understanding all the issues involved.
  13. I like to argue my case until the other side accepts that I'm right.
  14. Conflict does not concern me, I prefer to solve the problem and leave for another job
  15. I don't feel the need to argue my point of view, it's less stressful to agree with others


  • Questions 1, 6 and 9 illustrate an avoidance style
  • Questions 5, 11 and 15 illustrate an accommodating style
  • Questions 3, 10 and 14 illustrate a compromising style
  • Questions 4, 8 and 13 illustrate a competitive style.
  • Questions 2, 7 and 12 illustrate a collaborative style

Add up your scores for each style and this will show you the styles you trust the most.

How to deal with conflicts

1. Keep calm and try to establish a dialogue

Keeping calm is the be-all and end-all of any successful conversation, especially when it comes to controversial issues.

When dealing with conflict at work, your behavior is the first step, the way you handle the conflicting parties is the next.

It can be difficult to build a relationship and resolve issues at the same time, but you will find that it makes the whole process much easier and helps you move both sides towards a solution that everyone is comfortable with.

In short, if there is no dialogue, you have no chance of resolving the conflict.

(Video) What Are the 5 Conflict Management Styles? | John R. Miles | Passion Struck Podcast

To create that open conversation needed to resolve a conflict, you need to empathize with the person you're talking to and create some kind of bond.

Even if you don't agree with what they say, you can still accept it. Accept their views and opinions for what they are and move forward with your new perspective.

Remember that any type of conflict, even those you are not involved in, can be stressful to deal with. As humans, our instinct is to avoid situations that make us uncomfortable and anxious.

However, as a mediator, this is an opportunity you must embrace. Instead of visualizing the problems that may arise, try creating a vision for yourself in which you feel incredible relief and satisfaction in overcoming this obstacle.

2. Don't take sides

Any conflict can lead to hostilities and it is important to show that you are a neutral third party. While maintaining a calm demeanor, you must also be careful not to favor either party.

Even if it seems like a person is right, you should avoid showing your opinion. Remember, your job is to be a mediator who will help resolve the conflict.

Even if a person is frustrated, you should strive to maintain a calm demeanor. If you are also frustrated or in love, it becomes even more difficult for the conflicting parties to settle down and work out their differences.

Not taking sides can be particularly difficult when one of the people involved in the conflict is a manager or supervisor.

For example, an employee may feel that a manager is unfairly targeting him for disciplinary action: his co-workers are always late, but they are never told they are late if the employee himself is always reminded when arriving too late by coming late. .

The reason for this could be that the supervisor prefers certain employees; However, it could also happen that the employee in question has been late for much longer (perhaps 5-10 times in their career), while others are simply late a few times.

In some cases, it would be good to include HR in the conversation, especially if the conflict is with an employee's manager.

In short, stay neutral when talking to both parties and look into the matter, even if it seems straightforward at first glance.

3. Examine the origins and sources of conflict

Without a doubt, this can be one of the most difficult aspects of managing conflict in the workplace. As with any disagreement, it is likely that each person involved will have their own perspective on what happened and who is right.

The really difficult task behind this isn't necessarily defining the action that made both parties explode; Instead, the goal is to determine what the real problem is and if there are other things that caused this point to become an issue. big problem

For example, a person might start yelling at a colleague for delegating most of a project's budget to software development. However, there's a chance that the budget isn't the only problem lurking for these two colleagues. Project budgets aren't easy, but they are rarely the only cause of extreme conflict between two people; many people are often involved in these decisions. In this case, one colleague may feel insulted because the other acknowledges the division of labor, refuses to do his or her share of paperwork, etc. The critical point is the budget.

Depending on where the conflict in question is taking place and how long it has lasted, you may also need to speak with other employees. Find as many credible sources as you need to determine the cause.

4. Talk to Both Sides

This step requires you to speak to both parties separately in a private location where they cannot hear you.

Depending on what each side says the conflict started with, you may even have to go back to clarify some parts of the story.

You can sometimes talk to both parties at the same time, although it's best to avoid talking to both people at the same time. People may not feel comfortable talking openly with the other person in the room.

You may need to take notes on each person's version of the conflict. Remember, even if you're talking to two people individually, you still need to maintain an impartial demeanor so that neither of you feels like you're taking sides.

Ask each person what caused the conflict, whether there has been conflict in the past, and ask for their opinion on how to resolve the situation and avoid future problems.

After meeting the conflicting employees, you may also need to discuss the conflict and plan for resolving it with the appropriate members of management. This keeps everyone in the loop, and managers and supervisors can help ensure that each party is keeping their end of the bargain.

(Video) How to Handle Conflict At Work/Conflict Management Skills

5. Identify how the problem can be resolved

After finding the true origins of the conflict, you must look for a solution.

Ideally, you'll find a solution that fits all parts equally well. For example, if both parties are arguing over desk space, consider changing your office location for an easy solution. In this case, both parties are expected to move, so neither party feels isolated.

In other cases of minor conflicts, simply apologizing and moving on can be a pleasant resolution.

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to find an amicable solution.

This can happen, for example, when an employee clearly instigates a conflict. In that case, you may need to “write” or include it in a disciplinary notice or conduct report.Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).

Of course, this all depends on the severity of the conflict (for example, if an employee is constantly humiliating and disrespectful to others).

It's a good idea to ask each party independently what they think would be an appropriate and fair solution and try to incorporate each idea into your solution.

6. Try to find a common goal and agree on the solution

While it's your job to determine the solution, you still need each party to agree on the solution.

This might include explaining the benefits of the deal if an employee is more reluctant. However, as long as you find a fair solution, it should be possible to reason with each party and get them to agree to move forward and work towards a common goal.

Establish what is expected of each employee as part of the dispute resolution process so that each party knows what to do next and what needs to be done.

7. Check how the agreed decision was implemented

You can now bring both parties together and discuss the actions each will take to resolve the conflict.

It should now be clear what is expected of each party and why the decision is being made.

As the saying goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day". This is a good way to think about resolving your conflict. Some issues are easier to resolve, others may take longer. However, you shouldn't expect everyone to agree and then assume that all future problems will go away.

Plan to check with each party and their manager (as long as the line manager is not involved in the conflict, and if so, contact management and/or Human Resources for comment).

Remind each party of its obligations under the original agreement and ask for its opinion on progress so far and whether the conflict has actually been resolved.

Asking managers after speaking with both parties to the dispute can give you a more unbiased view of progress and whether each person is upholding their end of the bargain.

8. Find out how to avoid this type of conflict in the future

Every conflict is an opportunity to learn and create a better workplace for tomorrow.

The solution you find to avoid future conflicts depends very much on the conflict you just helped to resolve.

Certain conflicts, such as B. Personal issues between employees (these may extend or originate outside the workplace) are best resolved when employees keep their distance from each other and both agree to maintain a professional attitude at work.

Other conflicts, eg. B. related to shared rooms or devices, can be good learning opportunities to avoid similar situations in the future. For example, if two employees disagree about joint ownership of the company, consider implementing an application form that allows employees to reserve time to use these features.

Or, if employees are fighting for space, you might consider rearranging parts of the office where practical to create a more productivity-friendly layout.


Each style is useful depending on the situation, but as mentioned above, some are weaker than others and shouldn't be used heavily.

(Video) What Is Conflict Management? | Conflict Management Techniques | Conflict Management | Simplilearn

Conflict is an unavoidable reality in the workplace. Smart organizations know this and equip their management with the right conflict management skills to manage and resolve workplace conflicts quickly and peacefully.


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