Managing Conflict

In situations of conflict there are two main factors to consider that will have a bearing on the approach taken to the problem.

These are:

·         The concern for achieving objectives

·         The concern for maintaining relationships

Personal style adopted in response to conflicts tends to vary according to the strength of the concern in each of these two areas.

This can be represented by the diagram below:

Defining the conflict management styles:


Characterised by cooperative and unassertive behaviour, this means placing the other person’s needs above your own, even if your own needs are strong. An accommodating style can build good will and avoid disruption. It is often seen when one person has more power the other. Over use of this style can diminish influence, respect and recognition.


Evading the issue and withdrawing from discussion are the hallmarks of this approach. It can be used appropriately to allow a cooling-off period; to delay until more relevant information or analysis is available, or when there is insufficient time to resolve the issue. Too much avoidance causes problems; not participating in problem resolution results in unbalanced contribution to decisions and low commitment to them.


Used predominately by the most assertive and least cooperative people. Uses whatever power is available, be it position, information, persuasive ability, sanction or coercion. Used by some when stakes are high, or quick decisive action is needed. Used in excess can foster anger and frustration and may damage communication. Tends to produce win/lose situations.


Occupies the middle ground of the diagram. Expects that outcomes will be a partial fulfilment of the needs and objectives of both parties. Never fully satisfying, but mutually acceptable. Appropriate for temporary solutions or when time is short.

Develops bargaining and negotiation skills. Can be challenging to compromise without losing sight of values and principles.


Produces creative win/win agreements and solutions, and a strong commitment to them. Requires time and energy. Going through the process can lead to personal growth as values, assumptions and potential solutions are explored. Collaboration requires openness and trust…from all parties.

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